Students enrolled in Glen Burnie High School's new ninth-grade academy are doing so well that Principal David Hill wants to expand their curriculum to give them a glimpse of the adult work world beyond high school.
Since September, Glen Burnie High has segregated its 550 freshmen from upperclassmen and taught them with teams of teachers who coordinate their lesson plans and get to know the youngest students well.
The results, the principal said, have been striking. Discipline problems, smoking, rowdiness, fighting and acts of disrespect have dropped 43 percent from last year. At the same time, the ninth-grade attendance rate has increased from about 92 percent to 95 percent.
Hill is ready to go a step further. When this year's freshmen begin signing up for next year's classes, they will continue to be team-taught, but they will also pick a career path to follow.
Separate teams of teachers will be assigned to each of the paths, which are health and environment, business management and technology, hospitality and tourism, engineering, and arts and communication technology.
Two of the questions most often asked by students this age are: " 'Why do we have to know this?' 'When will we ever have to use it?' " Hill said. "I want them to realize that high school is a building block to what they will do in the future."
The teachers will plot a sequence of courses matched to each of the careers and see to it that students get basic subjects such as Eng-
"This is a way to get them to apply what they do in school to the outside world," Hill said.
The career paths and team teaching would continue through the students' junior and senior years, as Hill envisions it, so that by the time the freshmen are seniors, the entire school will have been team-taught.
Hill also plans to offer seniors internships in the fields that interest them through the high school's Business Advisory Board. The board -- 38 local business leaders -- matches students with professionals they can shadow at work, sets up mock job interviews and holds job fairs at the school.
"I am hoping to take advantage of those connections to the business community and find people who will help us plan our courses as well as get students involved in projects inside and out of the school," Hill said.
The academy model for high schools seeks to do a number of things, all aimed at keeping teen-agers interested in school: They get a glimpse of the work world, the adult world for which they are supposed to be preparing. They work in smaller, cohesive groups with a team of teachers they know, which studies suggest should make them feel more at home. They may therefore be more likely to learn more, get better grades, not skip classes and not drop out. Ninth-graders put into academies, Hill said, also have an easier time getting used to high school.
"It is a much kinder and gentler school now," Hill says after three months of the experiment. "We have students who are happy to come to school, and the climate of the entire school is good. It's amazing how changing one thing among one group of kids can trickle down to the rest of the school."
Pub Date: 12/20/98