San Marcos Launches Accelerated Academic Program
An informational night for parents and students will be held Wednesday at the high school
San Marcos High School has launched an Accelerated Academic Program as part of a districtwide initiative to meet the needs and interests of all students.
The Accelerated Academic Program is a four-year course of study in which a select group of students will follow a comprehensive curriculum combining the most rigorous course offerings (Gifted and Talented, Honors, Advanced Placement, SBCC and university) the district has to offer.
The AAP program remains unique to San Marcos because of the school’s “academic focus block schedule.” The block schedule, also referred to as the “University Schedule” by Erik Nielsen, head counselor and creator of the AAP, allows students to take yearlong classes in a semester much like students at universities on the semester system.
“AAP will allow students to do more,” said Eric Burrows, California State Teacher of the Year in 2005. “Students will be able to take two years of science, math, English or social studies in one year, expanding educational opportunities and creating advantages in college admissions.”
In its inaugural year, the AAP will enroll freshmen who will matriculate through a college-focused pathway, creating a school within a school environment for talented learners.
Jamie DeVries, an Advanced Placement economics teacher at San Marcos, is eager for the program to begin.
“I am so excited about this program. It is unprecedented in this community, and kids and parents are really energized about it,” he said. “Kids Helping Kids is just one example of what these students can do if given the opportunity.”
DeVries’ AP economics class recently raised about $140,000 for the Unity Shoppe as part of its annual Kids Helping Kids class fundraiser.
The AAP will provide students with a broad, general background in many academic areas at a level appropriate to highly academically skilled learners.
“The AAP is about preparation exposure, and enrichment,” Nielsen said. “High school is an optimal time for students to investigate interest areas. For those students who have narrowed their vocational focus, programs like the Health Academy at San Marcos, MAD or VADA at Santa Barbara High School, or the Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos, are viable options. However, for adept students who continue to explore their academic interests, the AAP will serve as an incredible educational opportunity.”
In four years, the AAP will include 30 freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior students (a total of 120 students). AAP will seek to expand opportunities for high-achieving, underrepresented students seeking the rigor of advanced coursework. The program will prepare students to face challenges and choices that will meet the complexities of today’s world, support a lifelong commitment to learning, and encourage students to make use of their potential.
Students will receive a broad spectrum of opportunities to extend and enrich the classroom curriculum through guest speakers, theater, summer programming, study abroad opportunities and field trips. Because of the rigorous nature of the AAP curriculum, support services are provided by AAP teachers and through the AAP Study Sessions Program and guidance counseling support. AAP students who meet or exceed six AP courses and meet the 280-unit threshold will be given special recognition at graduation and on their high school transcript.
The application window will open in the spring, coinciding with the eighth-grade registration process at the high school. An AAP informational night will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria of the school. All interested parents and community members are invited to attend.
Click here for more information about the program.
— Erik Nielsen is the director of guidance at San Marcos High School.
on 02.20.10 @ 08:30 PM
I guess this is one answer to not having a GATE program anymore in the district. Sounds like better advanced college preparation than a high level private school.
on 02.21.10 @ 12:50 AM
I believe you have your facts wrong. Gate isn’t going away. That’s a huge distorting of the facts. What they are doing is considering doing what every other secondary district in California already does - using “honors” as the designation for the highest-achieving classes.
Students will still be GATE-identified. It’s just that unlike elementary school, GATE-identified students in secondary schools are not pulled out for their enrichment. Instead, the students enroll in an Honors, AP or other advanced course.
on 02.21.10 @ 04:48 AM
Are we saying that GATE is not going away because the GATE classes were always taught as Honors classes anyway, therefore the push for the name change?
The answer is to keep the GATE classes for GATE identified students. According to the district’s GATE website, 2012-2013 is when the percentage of GATE students should be in line with research norms. Thus, as the number of GATE classes are reduced, the number of Honors classes can be increased to meet the needs of other highly motivated and academically talented students. Have four tracks: Intervention, College Prep, Honors and GATE. GATE should be an option available to GATE identified students where there is no AP, IB, or Dual Enrollment option.
Researchers have shown that GATE is special education and students need to be taught in a special way by a trained and committed GATE teacher. Why should enrichment for GATE students during the school day stop at sixth grade? True GATE education has the potential to address the needs of this population on many different and specific levels that go beyond the rigor of the curriculum.
Stop the assault on our most motivated and academically gifted students (GATE identified or not). During the midst of the GATE firestorm, DP is trying to quietly push through a new bell schedule for next year to address the bottom tier of the school. This bell schedule is going to cause 10-12 grade students of a minimum GPA to lose 24 minutes per day of instructional time. In a five day school week that would be 2 hours of teaching that your teen would be missing out on! For those preparing for AP and IB testing, 2 hours a week can make a big difference over time.
Congratulations, San Marcos for your Academic Acceleration Program. More time, not less, for in depth study and investigation during class!
on 02.21.10 @ 01:11 PM
Either way, GATE, no GATE, this program sounds like the way to get your top kids ready for college. I went to web site, and if a student stay on track in this program, they can enter college as a sophomore (between passing AP tests and SBCC classes). Imagine how much money that can save down the line with college tuition constantly going up.
on 02.21.10 @ 03:46 PM
Erik Nielsen you continue to impress many with your commitment to ensuring appropriate instruction for high achieving students, your creativity, and ability to be the master mind that can out-smart our failed SB District’s top, highest paid administrators who continue to deny their ineptness. Santa Barbara High’s loss was the day you left our campus. How lucky San Marcos is to have you on staff. How very fortunate our community is to have competent professionals like you who stick it out and rise above all the insanity at the District level, when you have countless other professional options. Keep up the great work you and others at San Marcos and DP High are doing to provide for those students who are ignored and shamed at SB High. Come to one of our assemblies designed to make bright, or is it ‘white’, students feel guilty for being smart or GATE identified; and subjected to reverse discrimination because they are the minority. Then listen to some HONORS, GATE, AP class Americans of Latino descent students tell you how some other Lations verbally attack them for ‘wanting to be one of them [white/Anglo]’ by working hard, performing and succeeding as evidenced by their ‘choosing to enroll in an AP, HONORS or GATE class. Why do you want to be one of them?’ It’s the Santa Barbara version of Uncle Tom that SBHS administrators and District administrators fail to address. It’s time to celebrate color-blind success, high achievement and accomplishment; to reward those committed to becoming our future leaders regardless of sex, color, ethnicity, socio-economic class. We need more like you Erik in the District office.
Note: The one shortcoming to the San Marcos Plan is the number of AP classes you’re requiring for graduation recognition BECAUSE some SBCC Dual Enrollment students do not have 6 AP classes but rather 12-18 SBCC College classes or 300+ units with 60 units or more coming from SBCC vs AP classes. I know seniors with only 3 to 5 AP classes and 70+ SBCC credits. I hope you won’t lock yourself into a corner alienating some of our brightest.
on 02.22.10 @ 12:40 AM
thank you for your note about Eric. We feel the same way!
To add to your note at the end, that is the beauty of the block schedule, the students can actually take that many AP classes since it is more like a college schedule.
on 02.22.10 @ 01:12 PM
This is very exciting. I look forward to attending the informational meeting. This is just what my kid needs.
on 02.22.10 @ 03:20 PM
Why doesn’t this include the IB program?
on 02.23.10 @ 04:08 AM
The only secondary IB program available in the district is at DP.
on 02.23.10 @ 01:11 PM
so the district only pays for a program at one school? How does this happen? Or is the funding different? It just seems to me in a age of budget cutting to cut a district program that only serves one school. But if the funding comes from somewhere else, then that is a different story.
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