AHS transition team curriculum may be revised

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2003

An Austin High School program is looking for ways to help incoming ninth graders who did not pass the eighth grade state reading and math tests.

The Ninth Grade Transition team is proposing to add another semester of math to the current transition curriculum. The team, made up of AHS teachers, helps students who struggled in middle school to succeed in high school.

Principal Joe Brown and team members are predicting next year's ninth grade class to be challenging. Math and reading test scores are lower for this year's eighth graders than last year's. They also are below the state average.

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Ellis Middle School eighth graders are at a 65.5 percent pass rate for the math test, compared to about 72 percent statewide. In reading, 75 percent of Austin students passed compared to 81 percent statewide.

Students in the ninth grade transition team take one elective course throughout the year, a language arts class, physical education, social studies, math and physical science. Next year, the team is proposing to delay the science class until the students' 10th grade year and replace it with more math. The physical science class requires algebra skills, which many students in the transition program are lacking, Brown said.

"If you have a broken leg, I'm not going to put you in the 100-yard dash," Brown said. "That just doesn't make sense."

The transition classes last longer than a regular period. Student take language arts for two periods a day first semester and social studies for that amount of time second semester. In the proposed change, students then would have a class such as home repair or consumer and family science first semester for two periods and physical education second semester. The last two periods of the day would be for a math class during both semesters.

Students are selected for the transition curriculum based on grades, attendance and state test scores. About 75 to 80 ninth graders are taking transition classes this year, but the program has a capacity for 100.

"We want those students to feel at home in high school," said Darya Trimble, language arts teacher and transition team member. "We don't want them to feel lost there. That's our priority for the program."

In the two years the transition team has been implemented, teachers and administrators have found students are not dropping out as frequently. In the past, it was common to lose 100 students a year. Last year, AHS lost only 40. This year's 10th graders are retaining more of their classmates than the junior and senior classes, Trimble said.

"Ninth grade is pivotal in whether kids graduate or not," Trimble said.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at :mailto:cari.quam@austindailyherald.com