January 31, 2007
TrekNorth Students get early taste of high school work.
By Michelle Ruckdaschel Pioneer Staff Writer
A new enrichment program at TrekNorth Junior & Senior High School in Bemidji is giving a group of eighth-graders a head start in high school. Starting this semester, the charter school is offering the 8.5 Program to eighth-graders who have demonstrated they are ready for high school coursework. Participants select one or two academic areas in which they excel and take high school classes in those areas. Six eighth-graders are participating in the program this semester,
joining TrekNorth’s high school students for classes ranging from physical science to geometry to U.S. history to world literature to German.
“We wanted to start small and make sure that it works well,” said TrekNorth Executive Director Dan McKeon, who developed the program with math teacher Deb Carlson-Doom. McKeon noted that the program offers eligible eighth-graders the best of both worlds. “I think it really meets their needs at all levels,” he said.
While the program challenges participants academically, it also considers their social and emotional needs as junior high students, McKeon said. He noted that the students start their day in their junior high advisory groups like all other junior high students at TrekNorth and take classes with their peers when they’re not in a high school classroom.
McKeon and Carlson-Doom said they based the 8.5 Program on a similar program offered at Saint John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minn. “It just made a lot of sense when we looked at what they were doing,” McKeon said. Students must apply to participate in the 8.5 Program and meet certain benchmarks, including in-class performance and grades, Carlson-Doom said. Students must also be in the top 85-100 percentile of standardized test scores and receive approval from their parents and junior high teachers to participate in the program.
Already, the 8.5 Program is motivating students at Trek-North, Carlson-Doom noted.
“There are a lot of kids who would like to be in it,” she said. Not only does the program challenge the participants in their skill areas, it will allow them to take Advanced Placement classes sooneras high school students, she added. One week into the new program, the participants have responded well, McKeon said. “I think they sense they’ve been given an opportunity,” he said. He noted that they are aware of the benefits of the program, as well as
the challenge of taking higher level classes. “And they’ve decided to rise to those challenges rather than hide from them,” McKeon said.