The Student Opportunity for Academic Recovery (SOAR) Program is designed for students in grades 6 through 8 who are over the traditional middle school age because of retention, truancy, or other challenges.
“Over the years, we would have students in our classes who were over the traditional age for middle school grades (i.e., 16 and in the 8th grade),” Ms. Amy Sarno (Middle School SOAR Program Coordinator) tells us. “We felt that it was difficult for those students to maintain interest in school; after falling behind in their grade levels for a wide variety of reasons, these students often become demotivated, and the thought of staying in school for five or more years of school – until they turn 20 or 21 – is overwhelming and unrealistic.”
The goal of the SOAR program is to provide academic recovery in the form of a pathway for students to complete middle school and transition to high school.
“We realized that offering these students the same program of full-year courses wasn’t going to work, so we started to think of ways to accelerate the Middle School experience, while still teaching all of the content needed to prepare students to move on to high school,” Ms. Sarno explains.
SOAR courses differ from traditional PALCS courses. Each grade level will be completed in half a school year, accelerating the transition to high school. Content areas will be blended together (Math/Science, and Language Arts/Social Studies), while foundational skills and concepts of each content area will be taught in separate lessons or modules, thematic units and projects will use a cross-curricular approach, combining content from multiple disciplines.
“Students have commented that the layout of the program is more manageable; and consistent times for daily Virtual Lessons and Lesson Help have helped them stay organized”, Ms. Sarno tells us. As part of an assignment based around Mission Statements, Logan O’Connor, a PALCS 7th grade student said: “The amount of information that I have learned with the SOAR program has made an impact on me. I like to learn more now than I have in a long time.”
All SOAR courses will utilize Project-Based Learning, an engaging, student-centered approach that allows students to gain knowledge through exploration and investigation of real-world problems.
“PALCS has always been about offering students another chance to be successful at school, and this is a unique way for us to reach and engage this specific population of students. It has been wonderful to watch students who weren’t previously working in their classes, but are now attending Virtual Lessons every day and submitting quality work. I’m excited for them and the progress they are making!” Ms. Sarno continues.
Keeping the teacher-student ratio small also means that teachers are able to offer a lot of one-on-one help and give quick feedback on assignments. Ms. Sarno continues, “In my position as Coordinator, I’m communicating with students and parents multiple times a week and contacting them as soon as issues arise; both students and parents have noted that this much connection has been supportive.”
Students eligible for the Middle School SOAR Program must meet one or more of the following criteria: are over the traditional age for their middle school grade, may turn 21 years old before their high school graduation date, have been retained for one or more school years, or are at-risk for being retained in their current grade “It’s exciting to be able to offer students something new: both the opportunity to truly make up lost time by completing two grade levels in one school year, and to engage with project- and problem-based learning to master grade-level concepts.”
The Middle School SOAR Program will begin accepting applications for the 2019-2020 school year in April, with new sessions beginning in both Fall and Spring. There will be a number of online Information Sessions for families who want to learn more; and information will be posted in the PALCSchool Lobby.