High school introduces Freshman Dragon Academy

NILES — Freshman starting this school year at Niles McKinley High School will have their own section of the school for their core classes as a new Freshman Dragon Academy has been established.

Niles McKinley High School Principal Tracie Parry said the freshman year is a “make it or break it year” for students.

She said the freshman academy is a small learning community within a large comprehensive high school that provides specific programs and support to address the unique needs of freshmen coming from a middle school and transitioning to a high school setting.

Goals of the academy are to increase student achievement, increase student attendance, decrease student discipline incidents, and increase student involvement and participation in school activities and functions.

Parry said research shows the most predictive indicator of high school performance is the student’s academic standing at the end of ninth grade. More students fail ninth grade than any other grade in high school and a disproportionate number of students who are held back in ninth grade subsequently drop out.

“We wanted to put resources in place to support our freshmen so they come out of the freshman year with all of their credits,” Parry said.

Board of Education President Susan Longacre said the board and administration was in favor of the freshman academy concept and how it will benefit the students.

”It is a great idea. We are one of the first schools in Trumbull County to have this,” she said.

The freshman academy structure will have all ninth grade core classes housed in one specific area on the second floor of the building. Academy teachers will share the same group of students offering opportunity for academic achievement and support. The seven teachers of math, science, history and English also will have a common planning time during the day to meet on student progress, provide individual support and increased parental communication.

Parry said the nearly 200 freshman students will be assigned homeroom teams that meet daily. Homeroom teams will compete for least discipline referrals, most participation in extracurriculars and for attendance and grades. Beyond the classroom, there will be service projects, freshman tailgate, guest speakers, assemblies and activities at school.

Parry said research shows if a student gets off track as a freshman, the chances of recovery are diminished.

”The small learning community will have freshmen teamed up with the same core teacher who will provide support for them academically and behaviorally,” she said.