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6, 2005 Section:
NEIGHBORHOODS Edition: OC=OLDHAM
COUNTY Page: 01G
Innovative N. Oldham
High reaps acclaim HOLBROOK
'Mayterm' keeps students
North Oldham High School's contributions to a
statewide effort to reform high school education have
earned acclaim from state officials, and North Oldham's
Mayterm - its most recent project - won
school board approval last week.
The board heard a mostly favorable report June 27
on Mayterm, an experiment in which
juniors and seniors took classes designed to hold their
interest during the last two weeks of school.
Board Vice Chairwoman Joyce Fletcher, whose son
Nathan participated in Mayterm as a
senior, said she is pleased with the project, both as an
official and a parent. She also said she's glad the
school is looking at ways to enhance it.
Students could take up to four
May-term classes, which were designed to
inject fun into academics. Some of those included a
hands-on forensics class a la the popular television
show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"; how to cook
healthy meals using only dorm-room essentials, such as
the George Foreman Grill; and spelunking at Mammoth Cave
National Park while learning about conservation and
preservation of karsts.
Fletcher said she had concerns about some classes
being held off campus.
Superintendent Blake Haselton, who retired
Thursday , said that North Oldham administrators are
looking at ways to keep all of the special classes on
campus and to better address the needs of
special-education students, but he said Mayterm is "90-95 percent" where it needs to be.
Haselton said the concept is intended to achieve
the district's goal of keeping students engaged in
learning during the whole school year, not wasting one
North Oldham is one of a handful of schools
chosen by the state Department of Education to try out
programs aimed at improving the high school experience.
State officials call the project the Vanguard
This comes as high schools are getting a critical
look nationally for failing to prepare students for
college and the modern work force. Educators and
politicians alike are pushing to restructure high
schools to produce better-educated graduates.
In May Kentucky's Prichard Committee for
Academic Excellence called for changes that include more
rigorous classes, end-of-course exams and teacher
bonuses - all intended to improve high school students'
Oldham schools had made changing the high school
experience a priority long before then, Deputy
Superintendent Charleen McAuliffe said. Among the
Block scheduling at Oldham County and South
Oldham high schools began in the mid-1990s. In this
format, students attend fewer classes each day but for
longer periods. The intent is to allow more time for
Oldham County High began its Freshman Academy in
the 2000-01 school year. Ninth-graders are put on a
schedule separate from upperclassmen, and teachers focus
on study skills. Since the program began, McAuliffe
said, fewer freshmen fail classes.
As of last fall, the "D" grade was eliminated at
Oldham County and North Oldham high schools. That raises
the threshold for a failing grade, which administrators
hope will encourage students who aim only to pass
classes to do better.
Mayterm is only one element of
North Oldham's Vanguard project. The school, which
opened in fall 2003, was designed to include other
The school is organized into "houses," in which
each teacher advises several students and acts as their
advocate, to foster closer relationships between
students and teachers and generate a feeling of
The student body is divided into lower and upper
schools. The lower school works to focus freshmen and
sophomores on the basics of graduation requirements.
Lower-school students have the same teachers throughout
the two-year period. The upper school, for juniors and
seniors, allows more electives and classes linked to
students' career and academic goals.
Students are required to complete a senior
project. They choose a topic they're interested in and
research it, giving written reports and, finally, a
presentation to a jury.
The high school shares a campus with North Oldham
Middle School, and the two are trying to create a
seamless connection. High school students act as mentors
to those in middle school, and the two schools' staffs
Students have had a large role in developing
North Oldham High since before its opening, with a
committee suggesting what the school include. Students
have remained involved, and some have participated in
the Vanguard initiative at the state level.
Andy McCormick, who graduated in May,
devoted his senior project to high school reform,
traveling around the state collecting students' thoughts
about what's wrong with high school as it is now.
McCormick delivered his findings to the state Board of
Education on June 8.
"I think students probably know better than
anybody what needs to change," McCormick said.
Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the state
Department of Education, attended the meeting of the
state board and said its members "were all very
complimentary of what North Oldham and those kids are
State Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit told
the board that North Oldham High is a model for others
in its focus on cultivating relationships between
teachers and students.
File photo; North Oldham High student Chris
Wallace took a yoga class during the school's Mayterm program in the final two weeks of school.
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