BEAUFORT — Nearly 200 county students were served through public school alternative learning programs last year, and results are paying off, according to County Schools Assistant Superintendent Mat Bottoms.
“Results are very positive,” said Mr. Bottoms during the County Board of Education meeting Tuesday in the school system’s central services office on Safrit Drive.
Alternative programs are offered at seven school sites and serve mainly middle and high school students that struggle with academics, behavioral and attendance issues. Mr. Bottoms said principals are given latitude in how to serve students, and services are based on each individual student’s needs.
“Principals are encouraged to seek innovation and creativity in dealing with their most challenged learners,” he said.
Mr. Bottoms said high schools focus mainly on students with high incidents of attendance issues and students who lack enough credits to graduate with their peer group. The high schools use a combination of online learning, computer-based learning and small group settings to assist students.
Since the programs have been instituted, Mr. Bottoms said the graduation rate has improved.
“The county’s graduation rate is at an all time high and has been above the 80 percent mark for the past few years,” he said, adding that although it’s not yet official, this year’s rate should be in the upper 80s.
Alternative programs for middle school students are offered at Newport Middle, Morehead City Middle and Broad Creek Middle. Students from Beaufort Middle and Down East schools were served at East Carteret High School. However, because the numbers were so low, the East Carteret middle school program, Mariner’s Landing, won’t be offered this coming school year.
Mr. Bottoms said each middle school program is uniquely designed. Broad Creek’s program addresses students with behavior and academic problems, and last year the term of enrollment varied from four weeks to the entire year. Some students were assigned to the program for one or two periods, while others attended most of the day.
He said three students who had been failing two or more courses at Broad Creek that entered the program greatly improved by the end of the year.
“They were assigned to the ALP for part of the day and the students netted an average growth of 12 points in language arts, math, science and social studies,” he said.
Morehead City Middle’s ALP is math focused and doesn’t have behavior criteria attached.
Newport Middle School’s program was similar to Broad Creek’s, and students were given instruction in academics and character education.
“A significant reduction in suspensions was noted,” he said of Newport’s program. “One noted success story was three repeating eighth-graders were promoted to high school mid-year due to their placement in ALP.”
A seventh school, Bridges Learning Center, offered on West Carteret High School’s campus, addresses students with mental health issues. The program serves students in elementary through high school grades.
Mr. Bottoms said 19 of the 20 elementary students served at the center last year were passing all of their classes by the end of the year. The middle school students showed similar results, with 17 of 20 passing all classes. Of the nine high school students served, seven passed all their classes.
Mr. Bottoms said Bridges Learning Center would add a therapeutic component for the 2014-15 school year, which will include more counseling services.
Mr. Bottoms said the curriculum and instruction staff is investigating new versions of online learning, which is the primary method of instruction in the alternative programs. The one currently being considered offers short videos of teachers teaching lessons rather than the lessons being available solely through student-read text.
Board member Blake Beadle asked if the new programs being explored aligned with state standards. Mr. Bottoms said any new program would be aligned with the state standards.
Board member Mark Mansfield asked how the school system was preparing for high school students who had been served by Coastal Academy for Technology and Science, a Morehead City charter school that closed June 30 after losing its charter. The school served a large population of at-risk students.
Mr. Bottoms said each student’s home school now had their records, and officials had reached out to students prior to the school’s closing. But so far they had not had many registering.
“We’re not anticipating a large influx of students,” he said.
Mr. Bottoms added that he understood the school was reopening as a private school in the fall.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, the school’s former executive director A.L. Fleming said that the school was now closed. However, a new private school, under a different board of directors and with a different mission, was set to open in Newport this coming school year.
Mr. Fleming said the new school, Crystal Coast Preparatory School, would serve students in grades six through 12.
“It is totally separate from Coastal Academy,” he said. “That school is now closed.”
In other action, Superintendent Dr. Dan Novey reported that the school system suffered minor damage during Hurricane Arthur, the Category 2 hurricane that hit the coast July 3-4. The most damage appeared to be at East Carteret, which lost a canopy and had some fascia damage.
There were several downed trees and tree limbs at various schools, and Beaufort Elementary School reported minor soffit and fascia damage. He added that technology staff was still accessing how equipment was affected by power surges. All systems were taken down prior to the storm hitting, so he anticipated damage to be minimal.
He also reported that the recent third-grade summer reading academy was successful. The academy, required by the N.C. General Assembly for state third-graders reading below grade level, served 48 county students at two locations. Of the students served, only 10 had to attend because they were below reading level. Other parents who wanted their students to get extra reading instruction enrolled the remaining students in the summer camp.
He didn’t yet have the reading score results for the 10 who were required to attend. The program was offered for three weeks, June 16-July 3.
Dr. Novey also reported that Gov. Pat McCrory had nominated him to serve as chairman of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction Textbook Commission. He accepted the nomination.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.