Additional reporting by Christopher Consolino and Feza Kikaya
This year's freshman class has reportedly done better academically than previous classes. There have been fewer tardies and office referrals, lower ineligibility and a higher overall GPA for this year's freshmen, according to Blair administration.
The average GPA for the current freshman class in the first quarter of the 2004-2005 academic year was a 2.91, as compared to what the current sophomores' GPA was during their first quarter freshman year, 2.64. The juniors' average GPA as freshmen was a 2.77, while the seniors were at a 2.6.
Blair's Academy Coordinator Susan Ragan called the freshmen's rise in GPA significant and attributed the change to a new mindset in students to care about their education. "There are a lot of kids who think it's cool to get good grades now," she said. "There's a culture shift that people are noticing."
Ineligibility has also decreased with the current freshman class. In the first quarter, the ineligibility was at 16.4 percent, as compared to Blair's overall ineligibility for the first quarter of this academic year, which was 21.6 percent. In second quarter, freshmen were at a 21.7 percent ineligibility, which was still lower than the entire school's ineligibility rating at 26.1 percent.
The numbers for GPA and ineligibility for the third quarter have not yet been published.
The academic successes of the class of 2008 have been attributed to three new ninth-grade programs that have been established this year. Teachers were provided more common planning time to discuss student instruction and behavior, the freshman wing was created to house freshmen core courses and ninth graders were separated into teams of 125 students each. According to a letter written by Assistant Principals James Short and Linda Wolf to the parents of freshmen, the goal of the new programs was to "encourage a sense of belonging and responsibility."
Connections and Matter and Energy teacher Wendell Hall believes that Connections classes also help freshmen by teaching study skills and providing time for students to complete work from other classes. However, he feels that Connections may force some students to take a heavier academic schedule in their freshman year.
Freshman Lamin Shermin, who will be attending the Human Services Professions Academy next year, agrees with Hall that his ninth-grade Connections class has been helpful. "It gives freshmen an opportunity to get to know other freshmen, get acquainted to high school and get work done," he said.
However, for some, like freshmen Doris Tawiah and Christina Dyal, Connections has had few positives other than providing a study hall. "You don't really do anything," Tawiah said, adding that she feels there is no need to have the class in the freshman curriculum.
Despite student concerns, Ragan emphasized the positive outcomes in freshman GPA and ineligibility attributed to the established learning environment and community building among staff and students. She feels that with more one-on-one time with teachers, students are more likely to succeed, and students' individual needs are more likely to be met. "[The academies] provide an avenue to seek out community relationships, form partnerships and have leaders to initiate this for them," said Ragan.
Over the course of four years, approximately eight Blair academy classes will be added to the curriculum on a yearly basis. The upcoming 2005-2006 school year will be the third year Blair has developed newly written courses. Students in the academies are not strictly limited to these new courses, however; they can take advantage of other courses Blair already offers to fulfill the necessary academy graduation requirements.
Allison Elvove. Allison Elvove was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2004-2005 school year. She wrote more than 70 articles while on the staff and supervised 40 student journalists, editing articles on a daily basis. During her time as editor, Silver Chips Online won the … More »