Friday, December 2, 2011

Budget cuts could jeopardize at-risk teen programs in SF

Career academies
Mike Koozmin/The Examiner
Teacher Valerie Ziegler, center, and student teacher
Lauren Karas, center left, lead a class at Lincoln High, 
\where three special academies could lose state aid.
Inez Vara attributes her academic success to the Green Academy, one of four career-focused schools-within-a-school at Abraham Lincoln High School.

When Vara was a freshman at Lincoln High, her earth sciences teacher suggested she sign up for the Green Academy, a program the school was starting the next year.

“I thought, ‘All it is, is save the whales, save the trees,’” she said. “But it was not what I expected.”

Now a senior, Vara has learned about recycling, waste management and climate change. She is taking Advanced Placement environmental science and applying to four-year colleges, and she hopes to have a career in foreign aid.

Participating schools must ensure that half the students entering an academy be deemed “at risk” of dropping out in the future. But despite the greater challenges faced by many academy students, a recently released study by researchers at UC Berkeley found that 95 percent of students in the state’s 500 career academies graduate on time, compared to 85 percent of all students statewide. Academy students also were more likely to pass graduation exams.

At Lincoln High, students said the study’s findings made sense.

“Abraham Lincoln is such a huge school,” Vara said. “In the academies, we create smaller communities. We build closer relationships with the teachers and closer relationships with each other. We’re not just another student in the hallway.”

Kitty Lam, a senior in Lincoln’s Teacher Academy, agreed.

“You’re with these people for so long,” Lam said, noting that students in each academy share the same small group of teachers for three years. “You strive for success. You can’t just let them down. The class, the teachers, we’re a family.”

The academies’ success may be in jeopardy, however.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/education/2011/12/budget-cuts-could-jeopardize-risk-teen-programs-sf#ixzz1fOhypwDy

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