I recently toured Premier High School of San Antonio, a place that recaptures disengaged students and brings them back into the educational system.
Premier is located in a low-rise business complex near the airport. Inside the glass doors, it was quiet, like a high-tech office. Director Christie Timmons met us in the reception area and led us into a classroom. Cubicles line the walls, and teenage girls and young women were leaning over their computers with singular concentration. A student and a teacher were sitting at a desk, pens poised, going over problem sets in a folder.
Two young women popped up and came over to speak to the visitors. S. shows us a card with her daily goals, a healthy dose of reading, with lots of boxes crossed out for completed work. In the hallway, she showed us her progress chart with lots of stars and “Course Complete!” stickers.
B. told us that her goal is to be a judge, but she knows that takes a lot of years of school, so she wants to get her courses finished. She has been looking at colleges—especially colleges not in San Antonio, because she wants to see more of the world.
Both of these girls had gotten off track. They needed a different setting to finish their high school careers. What’s different about Premier?
- Blended learning, using modules on the computer, allows students to go at their own pace. (Provided they pass a minimum number of tests every week.)
- Shift schedule (morning, afternoon, evening) lets students combine school with work or childcare.
- Access to help: teachers are available to answer questions, and students help each other with their stronger or weaker subjects. The school has a positive culture—it’s OK to ask for help.
- Boys and girls are in separate classrooms to reduce social pressure. Also, grades 9-10 are separate from grades 11-12.
The greatest advantage of the Premier model is that it teaches students to be self-motivated. Students are treated with respect; their time is valuable. They set goals and work hard to complete them, then take pride in their progress. Once they realize that they can do high school, their expectations rise: they can go to college, they can have the career of their dreams.
Premier San Antonio is one of over 60 campuses in the network managed by ResponsiveEd, a charter management organization based in the Dallas area.
San Antonio has another ResponsiveEd campus, the Foundation School for Autism; here is my earlier post about their carnival fundraiser in March.