Under the Bibb County school system’s forthcoming strategic plan to improve classroom achievement, students would attend schools based on their academic interests rather than where they live.
Students would apply to schools with a focus on subjects they are interested in, such as math or the arts, with the day split between core academic subjects and courses in their focus areas, Superintendent Romain Dallemand said Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of the League of Women Voters of Macon. Each school would have a particular academic focus.
Dallemand didn’t give many other details about what the plan would entail. A full strategic plan won’t be unveiled to the public until Feb. 10.
“It’s going to be a bold plan,” he said. “The plan is not designed to please everyone, but the plan is designed to make sure that each child is successful. Our focus is on the students. Our focus is in our future generation.”
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Dallemand said today’s students are educated in “one-size-fits-all” schools. But by allowing students to pursue their interests, he said, they will become more engaged in class with what’s known as the “portfolio model” of learning.
At New World School of the Arts in Miami, ranked among the nation’s top 100 high schools in U.S. News & World Report, students take their academic courses in the morning and focus on the arts in the afternoon, Dallemand said.
This past fall, 10,000 Bibb County students responded to a school system survey about their academic interests. Of those, more than 4,000 students were interested in an arts program, and 3,000 wanted to go to a sports academy. Students also showed interest in military, global studies and communications, as well as science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs.
Dallemand also said Wednesday he wants all students to have access to honors, Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment courses.
“If we give our students choices, we will captivate their interests, they will be motivated, they will behave better and they will do better,” he said.
Only 44.6 percent of those who entered the ninth grade in Bibb County graduated four years later, while only 10 percent of the jobs in 2018 will be available for those with less than a high school diploma, Dallemand said. Those statistics call for drastic action, the superintendent said.
“Improving such a system requires bold action. You cannot improve a system I just described ... by tweaking. It just won’t happen,” Dallemand said. “We’ve been tweaking the system throughout the years.”
The plan is expected to go into effect this fall.
In recent months, Dallemand has said he thinks students should learn Mandarin Chinese and become more well-versed in technology, along with adopting the portfolio school model. He also discussed the idea of year-round schooling, which will not be adopted for the 2012-13 school year.
Jackie Mays, president of the League of Women Voters of Macon, said the public should support Dallemand in his endeavors to improve the school system.
“Dr. Dallemand’s message suggests that change is coming, and it is the opinion of this officer that the community should rally around him and support the desire to give children the best education possible,” Mays said.
School leaders are taking big steps to make changes to the system now, but that task will take a long time to follow through, the superintendent said.
“It’s going to take Bibb County several generations to pull ourselves from where we are, because we are dealing with three to four generations of underachievement, three to four generations of failure,” Dallemand said. “We have parents today who once were students who dropped out of our system. We have parents who once were the students who weren’t successful in our system.”
League of Women Voters member Martha Jones, a former principal at Miller Middle School, hopes the strategic plan will help rebuild public confidence in Bibb County schools, especially as so many in the area have enrolled their children in private schools in recent decades.
“I’ve always worked for public education, because I’ve believed in it, but it’s never going to get better without (community) support,” she said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.