Ascend is the new name given to these offerings. Advanced programs include advanced placement courses, Cambridge diploma program, International Baccalaureate diploma program, JROTC, fine arts programs, academy model, honors courses, career and technology programs, dual enrollment and industry certification.
“Everything here is a means of connecting with kids,” supervisor for secondary education Dan Glasscock, during a recent presentation to the Bradley County Board of Education.
The initiative is a way for the middle and high schools to support the school system’s motto of “excellence by design.”
Glasscock said these programs and opportunities are open to all students.
The opportunities implement the three R’s of education as outlined by the Model Schools Conference — rigor, relevance and relationship.
“Relationships really have to come first. If you commit yourself only to rigor and relevance, you are going to miss out,” Glasscock said.
Many of these programs have been implemented over the past few years. With the new name for the collection of advanced programs, Glasscock said the school system hopes to expand current offerings and implement pre-AP courses at the middle school level.
“We are trying to find a continuity from elementary right into middle school and on into high school and make sure these kids meet the challenge early on,” Glasscock said.
“We have done so many things in elementary and so much at the high school level that the middle school has been sort of left out.”
Both middle schools participated in the Common Core Standards English Language Arts/ Literacy pilot, Glasscock said.
One focus of the initiative is to encourage students to be an honors graduate.
“An honors graduate scores at or above proficient for all the subjects listed as benchmarks on the ACT,” Glasscock said.
Those who maintain and graduate with a B average and one of the following: have a nationally recognized industry certification, have participated in a Governor’s School, participate in an All-State musical event, be named a National Merit Finalist or Semi-Finalist, score 31 or higher on the ACT, score a 3 or higher on two AP courses, successfully complete the IB diploma program or earn 12 hours of college credit are recognized as a Distinguished Graduate.
Glasscock said Distinguished Graduates will receive a specially designed seal on their diploma.
Advanced placement courses have grown over the years.
“In 2011-2012, we had one AP course at Walker Valley, today we have nine,” Glasscock said.
From those nine courses, there are 13 classes of students.
“In 2011- 2012, we gave 11 (AP) tests. This year it is now 200 and 80 something,” Glasscock said. “We have 18 students who are AP trained.”
Similar classes are offered at Bradley Central High School.
Glasscock said AP course participation has remained consistent while the Cambridge program has been implemented.
“This year we have 12 different courses, 25 classes, 169 enrollments. Now, I’m sure that is some duplication of people, but that is amazing,” Glasscock said.
Dual enrollment courses continue to be popular.
Service learning opportunities and high school commitment ceremonies have also been implemented.
He said the initiative helps students be more ready for being successful in a competitive workforce.
Industry certification programs available to Bradley County students have also increased as part of this endeavor. The CTE program strives to give something more than just a high school diploma upon graduation.
Career and technical education opportunities for Bradley County students have been enhanced by numerous grants, according to career and technical director Arlette Robinson.
The program also focuses on giving students the soft skills, such as interview and resume writing skills, they will need to get a job in their chosen field. Bradley County high schools are also a part of “The Pathways to Prosperity Network.”