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Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy principal: Focus on future in college

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 12:00 am

Aspire schools continue to succeed, members of the organization reported at the Lodi Unified School District Board meeting on Tuesday night. According to Academic Performing Index scores, these charter schools are outperforming many district schools while maintaining a much smaller student body.

The highest score among these Aspire schools is from Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy with a 2013 API score of 917. In comparison, district schools like Reese and Washington elementary schools have API scores of 826 and 747, respectively.

During a talk with Principal Jeff Palmquist of Aspire Benjamin Holt Preparatory Academy, he revealed the secret to this success may be found in paying constant attention to individual student performance and keeping the focus on a future in college.

During the board meeting it was mentioned that 100 percent of graduates get accepted to four-year colleges. Is this a program-wide statistic or is it specific to Lodi Unified schools? Are there any dropouts?

Our student population is dynamic in that some students leave us and some take their place. I am not able to speak to this Aspire-wide; however, I am not aware of any Aspire Ben Holt students that would be classified as a “dropout.”

How many students are in a typical graduating class?

Last year we graduated 54 students. This year we expect to graduate 65 students.

You mentioned in the meeting that one of the drivers of success in the program was early intervention with students. How exactly does an intervention work? How do you increase student performance?

There are many components to how we intervene to help students. We have a response-to-intervention process that includes a Program Coordinator and liaisons to middle school and high school. We meet on a weekly basis to monitor the academic progress of our students.

Our advisory program — a daily class that every student attends in the morning — has weekly progress checks every Thursday. As well, we have a lunch bunch program where students in need of academic intervention eat their lunch and receive support from our intervention coordinator and her staff.

These students are identified on a weekly basis and leave the program when they show satisfactory academic progress.

Since so many students are going on to college, how does Aspire Benjamin Holt prepare its students for college and for the application process? Are steps taken to help low-income students find ways to afford college?

The process starts in kindergarten and continues through the 12th grade. Our vision to prepare students for college success runs throughout every aspect of our program. Our classrooms are named after universities, our Friday uniform policy is college attire, and a weekly component of our advisory program is “College Knowledge.”

We have an academic counselor, Sandra Lazo, who coordinates a wide-variety of services including 12th-grade parent nights designed to inform and assist parents. All of our students have the opportunity to go on a school-sponsored college visit, and we provide support to students throughout the application process.

What colleges are students typically going to?

UC Berkeley, UC Davis, CSU Sacramento, CSU Stanislaus, and University of the Pacific are all popular destinations for our students.

Does Aspire Ben Holt offer the same classes as in the regular school district? What are the differences?

We offer UC-approved A-G courses like most high schools. However, we are also an Early College site that offers Delta College classes at Ben Holt during our school day. All graduates leave us with at least 15 units of college credit.

This year, eligible 9thand 10th-grade students have also had the opportunity to take Delta College classes during the school day.

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