What Is the Freshman Academy?
As mentioned in the overview, the Freshman Academy is a transition program for all first-time 9th graders. Each freshman is assigned to a Freshman Academy “team” of four teachers for their English, Biology, World History, and Health & Physical Education courses. Each teaching team serves approximately 120 students. There is also an assigned 9th grade Assistant Principal and an assigned 9th and 10th grade school counselor.
This means that the each team's teachers, the counselor, and the administrator can collaborate efficiently and effectively to support our 9th grade students academically and socioemotionally. Each team meets weekly with the counselor, administrator, and EC/ESL support staff to work on common instructional practices and expectations, cross-curricular content planning, proactive and preventative programming, and responsive support for students in need of additional help (these meetings have been extremely helpful with identification of students in need, brainstorming interventions, and consistency in behavioral and academic interventions).
Our class schedule is also different from the rest of the school. CHS operates on a 7-period bell schedule, 51 minutes per class period. The usual schedule for a 10th-12th grade student at CHS is seven yearlong courses every day. 9th graders' schedules instead are a hybrid blend of three yearlong (51-minute, August-June) and four blocked, semester-long (106-minute, two August-January and the other two January-June) courses. The four blocked classes are English 9, Biology, World History, and Health/PE. The yearlong classes are Math and two electives. An example 9th grade schedule can be viewed here.
We believe that this unique schedule helps both teachers and students during the transition from middle school to 9th grade, allowing us to promote better, earlier, and more personalization, relatedness and belonging, and care among students and teachers, when the usual high school structure and schedule tends more toward impersonal and harder-to-respond. In addition to logistically allowing for the weekly meetings above, our teachers get to know their 9th graders more quickly and in more depth, and having more time with students every day allows for unique opportunities to provide individualized differentiation and support. Our students have fewer classes to manage at one time, and they have a chance to get to know their teachers and other classmates better and bond beyond academics, as they spend more time with one another in these blocked courses. The schedule also allows us to implement unique preventative and responsive programming specifically with our 9th graders beyond the English 9, Biology, World History, and Health/PE curricula, because students share the same class schedule logistics.