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Liberty Ranch program helps ease passage to high school

PASSAGE aims to get freshmen on track and ready for 10th grade

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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:25 am, Sat Oct 13, 2012.

Moving from eighth to ninth grade can be one of the hardest rites of passage for students, but Liberty Ranch High School wanted to make the transition a bit smoother, both socially and academically.

"This is widely considered to be one of, if not the, hardest transitions in education for students," principal Brian Deis said. "Ours is even more complicated by the fact that the high schools in Galt receive students from four different feeder districts."

From the moment staff started planning for the opening of Liberty Ranch High School in 2009, they wanted to address the transition from middle to high school. an acronym for Promoting Academic and Social Success, and an A to G Education, with "A to G" referring to the University of California's required classes for admission — was launched this school year. It is a refinement of other transition methods the school has used in previous years and serves as a support system for incoming freshmen who have been identified as requiring remediation in math and/or English, Deis said.

The team of educators include a coordinator, science teachers, an English teacher, math teacher, counselor, school psychologist and administrator. Each class is capped at 25 students to create more of a team feeling and develop a sense of "we," according to the principal.

Science teacher Sean Duncan serves as PASSAGE's administrator. At the end of the quarter later this month, he and Deis will be meeting to review student performance data for the district's benchmarks in science, math and English, as well as attendance

PASSAGE students are challenged not only to experience success academically and socially, but also to learn to be responsible, empowered citizens of their school and community. The biggest focus is for participants to academically graduate to and be fully prepared for the 10th grade, according to the program's vision statement.

The goal is to get students to grade level standards in each core subject and teach standards needed for 10th grade.

"The PASSAGE class, which would have been the old support class, has a focus on academic support, study skills, collaboration (and) team building. Students are assigned a home class, but travel to other teachers as scheduled or needed," Deis said. "In this class, our goal is to teach students needed academic skills, provide extra support for core classes and foster positive relationships."

The program is also effective at improving student performance, because it personalizes their education and works to communicate effectively with parents, according to Matthew Roberts, the new Galt Joint Union High School District superintendent.

"Passage teachers involve parents, and do a great job instilling the values that make strong and confident students," he said. "We like to see programs that individualize the educational process, with a focus on results."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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