Leaving middle school, and entering the demanding world of high school, can be a culture shock for many students. Often, there is a gap between the skills students have when they leave eighth grade, and the skills they will need to succeed in high school in algebra, science, technology and other content-rich courses.

The school board and administrators at the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI), a diverse, urban, county-wide career-oriented high school, set out to address the situation and, at the same time, provide a safe, enriching weekend alternative for their prospective students. The result was the Saturday Academy.

The Saturday Academy offers a high school experience to seventh and eighth graders, offering 8-week Saturday classes in the fall and spring. Students choose from course offerings such as “Cooking, Laughing, Learning,” “Intro to Engineering,” “The Doctor’s In,” and “Frontiers of the Mind.” Courses are taught by PCTI educators.

In addition to receiving an introduction to the dynamic, diverse culture of a PCTI education, students preview the school and its faculty, become aware of expectations, and transition more smoothly from middle to high school. The program also builds a community for parents and students. As an added bonus, a computer class was started for parents, which many now take while they’re waiting for their children.

Students pay a nominal fee, $8 per class per week, which helps make the academy self-sustaining. The program has been a success. The first year enrollment of 60 students in 2004 has grown to more than 260 students per year. More than 90 percent of this year’s Saturday Academy students opted to attend PCTI for high school. As further proof of success, younger siblings of PCTI students are enrolling in the Saturday Academy.

Information

Contact: Sandra Woods, assistant to the superintendent for communications and special projects, woods@pcti.tec.nj.us

Designated as a Notable Program by the National School Boards Association Magna Awards

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