MHS to debut new Accelerated Learning Academy

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MHS to debut new Accelerated Learning Academy
The Accelerated Learning Academy will run out of the Hildreth Alternative School. (Photo/Stuart Foster)

MARLBOROUGH – A new program this year will aim to help Marlborough High School (MHS) students who are struggling to graduate.

Speaking at a School Committee meeting on July 12, Marlborough Director of Alternative Education Michael Allen said the Accelerated Learning Academy will help struggling MHS students.

“They are students who are having great difficulty finishing school,” Allen said.

He said the students do not have behavioral problems. Rather, they are academically struggling for a variety of reasons including mental health issues and for some, the responsibility of financially supporting their families.

According to Allen, the program will offer social-emotional learning and wellness resources. Overall, he said, the program provides a much more supportive environment compared to other existing options.

Program to launch with 10 students

The program will initially include about 10 students starting in September, according to Allen. He said this is not a “hard cap” as more students could be added throughout the year.

“It’s important that we start, and we are successful with them,” Allen said of the initial base group.

Allen said the program will probably need four staff members, including one with experience in social and emotional learning.

“Our goal at this point is really to start the hiring of some of our teachers,” Allen said.

The academy will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Hildreth Alternative School from 4 to 9 p.m.

There will be a dinner provided between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Transportation will also be offered.

Students will have to be at least 17 years old and have attended school for at least two years before applying to the program.

They will have to sign a contract, go through an interview process and be willing to participate completely, Allen said.

This will include, he added, a minimum attendance requirement of 95 percent.

Allen said the program will be more focused, allowing students to progress at their own pace. However, the program is still competency based, and it requires students to pass state benchmarks, including MCAS exams.

“There’s no getting around that,” Allen said.

Allen said the program will hopefully allow students to close age and credit gaps to graduate around the same time as their peers.

The presentation was brought to the School Committee by new Marlborough Superintendent Mary Murphy, who said it is not an actionable item the committee needs to vote on. She said she wanted to bring it to members’ attention and get their approval before they began to hire teachers.

Members of the committee responded enthusiastically, with School Committee member Michelle Bodin-Hettinger suggesting that Allen return at the end of the year to update them on the success of the program

Program builds on previous goal

Murphy said that expanding alternative high school options was a goal initially identified by former Superintendent Michael Bergeron four years ago.

She added that the district has since begun offering programs like METAS, which is like the Accelerated Learning Academy primarily for English Language Learner students

“This new program is the next step in that expansion of alternative pathways,” Murphy said.

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