By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
ELLICOTT, Colo. — At the final meet-and-greet with Schriever residents for the 2014-2015 school year in April, Dr. Patrick Cullen, Ellicott School District superintendent, explained that the district wanted to add more advanced level courses to the curriculum.
“We had some concerns that maybe we weren’t offering enough to our higher level kids,” Cullen said. “Whatever we can do to better serve you, we darn sure want to do, not only with Schriever, but with every student in our district.”
Students attending Ellicott High School for the 2015-2016 school year will notice some changes when they get to class, and not just the new paint and carpet.
The school has added four new Advanced Placement courses, three new trades courses to the Vocational Technical program, focus-driven prep courses for each grade level and will be implementing a one-on-one initiative to enhance curriculum delivery to all students.
“It’s all about keeping students engaged,” said Mark McPherson, Ellicott High School principal. “We are working and training with our teachers to work with enhanced curriculum and delivery.”
The school already had AP Chemistry and an AP language arts class as part of the curriculum. This year, U.S. History, Physics, Calculus and Composition and Literature will be added to the AP offerings. The language arts classes are open to juniors and seniors, the remaining courses are limited to seniors.
AP courses allow students to earn college credits for courses taken in high school. The course is taught by a school staff member, who has completed a five day training session covering content and delivery, and the college credit earned is determined by the score they receive on a test at the end of the course.
The test is created and scored by the College Board, the group responsible for AP courses, and students receiving a grade of 3 or higher, on a 5-scale system, can typically earn college credit for the course. According to the College Board’s “Bulletin for AP Students and Parents,” the amount of college credit received is determined by each individual college or university.
There is a $91 fee for students to take the test, but students could get that money back if they perform well on the test, McPherson said.
“As an incentive, the district will reimburse any student who passes the test with a 3 or higher,” he said.
For those students enrolled in the VoTech program, the school has added a construction trades program and advanced woods course for this year. McPherson said there will be two sections of construction trades, which will not only teach students how to build and manage construction, but reinforce math skills as well.
“Any time you’re doing any building or construction, math is a requirement, particularly in the geometry series,” he said.
The students will eventually build sheds and other items that will be available for public purchase, McPherson added.
Each grade level will also have a 30-minute daily period, called Seminar, which will focus on grade-specific needs. Freshmen and sophomores will be focusing on academics, such as math and reading, juniors will be working on ACT preparation and seniors will be given post-secondary guidance on issues such as filling out college applications.
“This will be a focus-driven period of time,” McPherson said. “It’s mandatory, but students will receive one-quarter [of] elective credit, for the class.”
In addition to the new course offerings, the school will begin implementing a one-on-one initiative to enhance learning and help ensure the school is offering 21st century curriculum. The Ellicott Middle School already has a similar program in place, and implementing it at the high school gives those students a similar experience, as well as allowing current middle school students to carry it with them to high school.
“We have a one-on-one initiative at the middle school, and we’re getting ready to do something at the high school here,” Cullen said.
McPherson said the one-on-one initiative gives each student and teacher a laptop that they carry with them from class to class. These laptops will allow teachers to enhance course content and delivery and give students the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and depth.
“It’s not just a swap for pen and paper and not something that they’re going just type a paper on,” McPherson said. “It’s going to be used to enhance their research and the products they produce. For example, instead of just typing a paper on Shakespeare, they might be able to produce a website concerning their Shakespeare project and get opinions and collaborate with other students. That, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing to increase academic achievement.”
Cullen said all of these changes serve to help the district achieve its goal of meeting the needs of every student.
“Our goal there is to make sure every kid has a track to walk and we’re serving every child,” he said.
McPherson said these changes will help improve the quality of every educational track, honors, general education and VoTech, and help better prepare students for life after high school, whether they plan to attend college or go straight into their career fields.
“We’re going to give them the tools necessary to do whatever they want to do when they walk across that stage and receive their diploma,” McPherson said. “When they hit the other side of the stage, they’re prepared for life.”
Representatives from Ellicott School District will be at the Tierra Vista Community Center from 8 a.m. to noon July 22 to take enrollments and answer questions from housing residents.