Parents of fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders in the Kingman Unified School District should expect their children to bring home interest surveys this week.
The surveys are a way for KUSD to gauge interest regarding the 2012-2013 opening of the Cambridge Preparatory Academy, an international program sponsored by Cambridge University in England that offers middle school students a rigorous and relevant curriculum.
As is, the program is a go for Kingman Middle School, but could open at White Cliffs Middle School as well. It just depends on the level of interest shown by parents and students, as the program requires motivated students and involved parents.
Jack Burden, KUSD's school improvement grant coordinator, said students who enter the program will have four core teachers implementing the international curriculum through English, math, science and social studies courses. Social studies classes will largely not be based on the international curriculum - but still contain the rigor - because social studies classes are often exclusive to the country where they're being taught, Burden said.
Within the core curriculum, emphasis will be put on hands-on thematic learning, which allows students to make connections between the courses they take, he said. This helps students not only retain the information they're learning, but apply it to their lives and the real world.
College learning is often formed in a similar fashion. The Cambridge Preparatory Academy allows students to get used to this type of learning, Burden said.
Roger Jacks, KUSD superintendent, said it was explained to him like this: Pretend a flower is the subject. At the lowest level of education, students would need to memorize the parts of that flower. At a higher level of education, students would need to memorize the parts and explain what each one does. At the Cambridge Preparatory Academy's level of education, students would need to design their own flower complete with all the parts, what they do and how each one relates to the other and the flower as a whole.
Sound like an elitist program? It's not.
Although A students are encouraged to apply, the program will be open to students with 3.0 GPAs. Depending on the level of interest, the GPA requirement could even be lowered.
For the first year, the program will be a pilot. After that, the plan is to carry it over into the ninth- and 10th-grade, as it prepares students to take an international test at the end of their sophomore years, which can either allow for early graduation and college entrance with the Grand Canyon Diploma and Move on When Ready or open the door for students to take advanced placement courses at Kingman High or international baccalaureate course at Lee Williams High.
At community colleges across the nation, 40 percent of students enrolling out of high school must take remedial classes because they are not prepared for college-level work, Burden said. The whole goal of the Cambridge program is to nip that problem in the bud and thoroughly prepare students for college and possibly careers, he added.
Middle school students enrolled in the academy will take checkpoint tests in order for instructors to gauge students' strengths and weaknesses, see where students need improvement and help keep them on track, Jacks explained.
These are not fill-in-the-bubble tests; they contain open ended, high-level questions that, for the most part, require students to write out their answers, Burden said. This is a rigorous program, which requires students to demonstrate their ability to express their understanding of a particular subject, he added.
Academically talented and motivated students are encouraged to apply. Once parents receive the interest surveys, which will contain a detailed overview of the Cambridge Preparatory Academy, they are encouraged to return them to the students' teachers if interested. A parent information night will be held in the spring to address questions and explain the application process as well.
Also, Burden is available for questions regarding the academy, and can be reached by going to KUSD.org and clicking on the "Cambridge Preparatory Academy Information" link.