School board approves broader menu of learning choices

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The Beaufort County Board of Education approved a proposal to expand and diversify the school district’s menu of learning choices for students.

The 10 curriculum options approved Tuesday, Dec. 10, include some that are already available, such as International Baccalaureate, arts infused and dual language immersion programs New options would include a classical studies program and college and career cluster communities, and schools will be able to suggest additional options for approval.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said the goal is for each school in the district to have at least one program choice in place by the start of next school year. Information will be made available in plenty of time for parents and students to investigate their options and make choices.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t address the fact that all children learn differently,” Moss said.  “The more learning choices schools offer to students and parents, the more successful they’re likely to be.”

“One school might offer a dual language immersion approach and teach students in two languages,” the superintendent said.  “Another school might offer an arts-infused program where students interested in the visual arts, music and theater would still learn math, English and the other fundamentals, but those lessons would be done with an eye toward infusing the arts in lesson plans and class activities.”

Schools that are not already providing program choices will have the option to become schools of choice by applying to the district office to offer a district-approved program. The number of students who can be admitted to a particular school of choice will depend upon the number of available seats.

School principals will discuss their possible program choices with staff and parents, and a survey will be sent home before the end of the year, with results expected by mid-January.

Moss said that all schools in the district would maintain a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics focus, a program that normally might have been a choice option. All schools also would offer a core that includes the arts, world languages and technology.

The initial school choice programs approved by the Board of Education were:

• Advanced Math, Engineering and Science Academy (AMES): Designed for gifted and high-achieving students, AMES focuses on building rigorous math and science foundational skills taught through the use of science and engineering projects.

• Arts Infused or arts integration programs: Students learn through creative instructional approaches and to express themselves creatively in the arts, including participating in performances, exhibitions of art work and special performing groups.  Included are dance, music, theatre, visual arts and creative writing.

• Classical studies: Offered at the middle or high school levels, these college preparatory courses of study feature mandatory courses in English, world language, math, science, social studies and a school-wide participation in world culture studies. The emphasis is on critical thinking, participation in Socratic seminars and web-based learning.

• Montessori: This popular instructional method is based on a child’s natural desire to learn. Students learn within a prepared environment of carefully sequenced materials and engage in independent tasks that they complete at their own pace.  Multi-aged classrooms include lower elementary (first through third graders) and upper elementary (fourth and fifth graders).

• Dual language immersion: Students learn in two different languages during the school day, which is typically split to provide content in English and then switching to the second language for the other half of the day. Students become fluent in two languages at the same time. Chinese and Spanish immersion programs are currently offered.

• International Baccalaureate Program (IB): Students are encouraged to be active learners, well-rounded individuals and engaged citizens of the world.  The three IB programs for students aged 3 to 19 help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional, and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.

• Project Lead the Way and Gateway to Technology (PLTW/GTT): This curriculum encourages hands-on engagement, problem solving and the use of technology for research, collaboration and project presentation. The high school courses (PLTW) prepare students to pursue a post-secondary education and careers in math, science, engineering, and technology. The middle school engineering program (GTT) features a project-based curriculum and program so that students may design and test their ideas with advanced modeling software.

• College and Career Cluster Communities: Students enroll in core academic courses and industry-specific classes related to work-based learning activities organized around one of five career themes: Finance, Hospitality and Tourism, Information Technology, Health Sciences, or Engineering. Students may obtain industry association certifications or licenses.

• High school academies: These are small learning communities within larger schools that prepare students for college and careers within a focused field of studies and major area of emphasis. Examples include School of Arts, Communication & Technology, Health Professions, and International Studies & Education.

• Early college high schools: In these schools, which feature partnerships with local colleges, students can earn both a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit at the same time, allowing students to dramatically reduce college costs.

Bus transportation would be provided to programs within students’ choice attendance zones. Parents who choose programs outside their attendance zones would have to provide transportation.