Opinion

Marysville secondary schools designed for student success

by Dr. Larry Nyland

Superintendent

Marysville School District

Small schools come from a rich tradition in Marysville. Heritage High School, 10th Street Middle School, Marysville Cooperative Education Program and Marysville Mountain View High School were developed in Marysville almost 15 years ago. Six years ago, Arts and Technology High School was started, Marysville-Pilchuck High School got a grant to study smaller learning communities and the junior high and Heritage had received Gates grants to develop small learning communities.

Marysville, with 3,500 high school students and one of the largest high schools in Washington went to “smaller learning communities” two years ago. The move to smaller schools came after extensive study of schools that work, and a desire to ensure that fewer students fell through the cracks.

High school students in Marysville have a choice of eight smaller learning communities: Academy of Construction and Engineering, Arts and Technology HS, Bio-Med Academy, Heritage HS, International School of Communication, Marysville Mountain View HS, Pathways of Choice, and School for the Entrepreneur.

Our smaller learning communities, although only in year two, continue to develop the relationships the relevance, and the rigor called for in the board adopted “guiding principles for secondary success” outlined below:

Relationships at the Center — We want students to feel known, valued and inspired to perform at their highest potential. The goal is to have an adult advocate who encourages successful achievement for each student. The International School of Communications creates student teams of about a dozen each to make sure that each student is well known and connected. Bio-Med and A&T staffs regularly step in if students are not progressing. Students say:

“ISC is like my family away from home. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.” — ISC

“Pathways is the most important ingredient in making the best of friends.” — POC

“My teachers want to know each student. Before, I did not feel like my teachers had time to get to know me.” — SFE

“There are fewer distractions. My teachers really understand and respect who you are.” — Heritage HS

Relevant Identity, Purpose — Each small learning community continues to fine tune course work, assignments, projects and internships around a distinct theme. Students choose small learning communities that reflect their learning interests. MMVHS recently toured the Port of Seattle to learn about import-export businesses. Bio-Med visited BioQuest to learn about infectious diseases. TV3 partners with major broadcast networks and now offers six hours of programming each day. A&T visited an Arlington firm that machines parts for Boeing. Students say:

“Bio-Med classes teach you about the world you live in.” — Bio-Med

“MMVHS will help you be successful in life.” — MMV

“I like the fact that many of my classes look at assignments through a business lens.” — SFE

Rigorous, Focused Learning — We want to challenge each student to meet or exceed district/state standards. Schools can gather the entire faculty around a table to develop programs that engage all students in daily learning. Pathways of Choice students beat out strong competition to take first place in the Hi-Q competition. Bio-Med and the Academy of Construction and Engineering took mock trial teams to the state competition. Students say:

“ISC will give you the biggest brain strain, but it’s worth it.” — ISC

“I have a great teacher; she opens the mind and teaches students to think.” — ACE

“I know my teachers are doing their best to help me graduate. They really know me.” — A&T

SLCs are still developing. They continue to hone and shape their programs for students. One complaint about SLCs has been fewer elective choices for students. Student and staff feedback have prompted changes for next year (2009-10) that will provide more elective options:

Jazz band, symphonic band, and wind ensemble (by audition) will be open to all 2,500 students on the M-P campus.

Men’s choir, women’s choir and chamber choir (by audition) will be open to all 2,500 students on the M-P campus.

All AP classes in the smaller SLCs will be open to all students in the SLCs that will go to Getchell.

Arts and Technology High School, now in their sixth year, illustrates success as a smaller learning community...

A&T recently took 2nd Place, out of 64 schools, in the state robotics competition and made an impression with Boeing. The A&T team was invited to a special ceremony commemorating the delivery of the 777th 777 to Air France. The students participated in the event along with Boeing executives and executives from Air France. The A&T student video played continuously on the giant screen. Students were treated royally. And Boeing has expressed interest in supporting not only the Robotics Program, but also the A&T Manufacturing Program. The A&T robotics program is sponsored by Boeing, BE Aeronautics, Verizon, ITT Tech, A&T PTA, and a grant from OSPI. Together they raised $14,000 to support this year’s robotics team.

Teacher Mike Fitzpatrick said, “The action of these students has opened the door to a long-term partnership with the Future of Flight Center and their foundation. We are beginning a year-long investigation of energy positive schools to support our emerging STEM program at A&T.”

We believe that SLCs well done and well run will turn these guiding principles into reality:

• Every student proficient in literacy and math.

• Every student from every ethnic group graduating on time.

• Every student prepared for college, career, and citizenship.

For more information about Small Learning Communities in Marysville’s High Schools visit our district web site. The Board of Directors will hold a work study session on SLCs on June 8.

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