MA adds directed studies

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

Manchester Academy has a long standing reputation for producing students who are ready to enter a four-year university straight out of high school. 

The world is changing, however, and Manchester must change with it to meet the needs of every student within its walls.  For the upcoming school year, Manchester Academy will begin its first Directed Studies program for students who are at-risk of falling behind due to circumstances out of their control.

According to the curriculum, this new Directed Studies class will be regarded as a high school elective for students ranging from 7th-12th grade, where the students will receive intensive support from a professional mentor who will advocate for the students’ educational needs, and will empower them to focus on building better study skills, organizational habits, and will hold the students accountable.

Jana Bardwell, secondary principal at Manchester Academy, said that after doing some research at other schools in the area, they decided to bring the program to Manchester because it would benefit a small percentage of the student population who struggle with certain subjects, or who may have impairments or disorders that interfere with their ability to learn at the same pace as other students.

"I am all about helping at-risk students," Bardwell said. "We have some students who need it, so we have put this in so those students will have a little bit of an easier time at school.  We really wanted to help those kids who do struggle with failures, so this is a preventative measure."

Bardwell said that the students chosen for the Directed Studies class will report to the class every day as a part of their regular schedule, and they will receive course credit for the year.

The two professional mentors who will be in the classroom helping students are Julie Paul and Elizabeth Beecham, who are also regular teachers at the school.

"We are their support," Paul said. "We come in and reinforce the things that they may have lost in an hour of class.  We may teach that lesson to them in a different way that may help them learn it.  We are going to do our part to help this child become as successful as they can in school."

Bardwell said that this elective will only be for a small percentage of students who were chosen by teachers for the program, or those who were referred to the program by a professional.

She added that every student will have their own individual education guide that the teachers will follow to ensure that the student's needs are met in every way possible.

"Elizabeth and I will actually work with the students to help them develop the habits they need, and we will hold them accountable," Paul said. "We will have a board in the classroom that has listed when the tests and quizzes are, and we will also have the teacher's lesson plans so we will know what they are working on from day to day."

Bardwell said that parents will be involved in the process as much as possible so that everyone will be on the same page.

"We will meet with parents at the beginning of the year and explain more about the program and how it will benefit their child," she said.

"We will be in contact with them but they will also have to do their part for the program to work," said Paul.

Another positive role that this program will play in the future of Manchester students is that it will create a paper trail of documentation for all students who require accommodations for learning.

"A big part of this is geared to the ACT test," Bardwell said. "In order to receive accommodations for the ACT, you have got to show that the student has been receiving those accommodations at school every day."

Bardwell added that most colleges and universities will also provide support and learning accommodations to students as long as there is a documented paper trail behind them.

"It's all about making sure that this student can succeed in high school," Bardwell said. "We will get them on a course where they can be in a vocation or trade or further their academics at a college or university.  We want them to be academically ready to perform wherever they choose to go."

The new Directed Studies class at Manchester will be a part of the curriculum provided by the school, and there will be no added fees for students to benefit from the program.

"There is no fee for this," Bardwell said. "While other schools do charge handsomely for a program like this, Manchester will not.  It's all a part of the general curriculum here."

As a parent of an at-risk student, Paul said that she appreciates what Manchester is doing to help students who struggle with learning.

"As a parent, you want this for your child," Paul said. "You want someone else in that building who will fight for your child because you can’t fight for them.  To know that we are offering something to your child who is already struggling, you want that.  We are their voice, that guardian angel, that mentor for your child while they are at school, and I think that will give parents some relief."