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Mansfield ISD’s New “Power Of Choice” Program Offers Unique Educational Tracks to Students

Aug 07, 2017 10:02AM ● Published by Melanie Heisinger

Students and parents in the Mansfield ISD now have more choice and control of their educational 
future than ever before thanks to the district’s new “Power of Choice” program. The unique educational offerings include two-way dual language, leadership academies, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) academy, an early college high school and more, according to Dr. Sean Scott, assistant superintendent of technology and information systems for Mansfield ISD.

Scott says the new program, which was first launched last year for the 2016-17 school year, allows students to choose an educational path that fits their specific needs and interests – even if the school that offers their program is outside their designated attendance zone. The goal of the program, says Scott, is to ensure that every student has equitable and equal access to the academic settings that best serve their needs.
 

Origins of the Program

Dr. Sean Scott, Asst.
Superintendent of
Technology and
Information Systems

“The Power of Choice was the idea of Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas and was based on guiding statement #5 of MISD’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, which states that parents and students will have choices with educational opportunities,” says Scott.

The program was developed by a committee, and Dr. Scott, and Dr. Kimberley Cantu, assistant superintendent of human resources, serve as the point people for the Power of Choice program. Christie Alfred, executive director of curriculum and instruction, has also been a critical part of putting the process together and shepherding all of the school principals through it.

School principals throughout the district were allowed to submit their ideas for programs through an RFP process. The ideas were then thoroughly vetted and evaluated, and a decision was made about whether the principal’s idea would be accepted and added as a Power of Choice program.
The “school of choice” concept is not new. Many districts across the country have similar programs, but Scott says he is not aware of another district that has allowed campuses to create their own plans and then apply through the RFP process the way the Mansfield district has done.
Now in its second year, the program’s popularity is growing and space is limited. The Martha Reid Leadership Academy had 44 applicants and 28 approved; The Tarver-Rendon School of Agricultural Leadership had 13 applicants and 13 approved; The Early College High School at Timberview High School had 119 applicants and 75 were accepted; The STEM Academy at Brooks Wester Middle School had 280 applications and 75 were accepted; and numbers are still pending for the two-way dual language programs.

Scott says they are actively monitoring each program and as they note additional demand, they will look at options to expand existing or even add new programs. “We are focused right now on making sure our new offerings are successful. We feel this is the best way to grow demand,” he says. “We are currently considering possible program offerings for the elementary, intermediate and middle school that will be built with the 2017 bond program.”

Though Scott and Cantu are responsible for the program, he says they work closely with the participating school principals to oversee and manage. Measuring results is important and Scott says, “The effectiveness is measured by the number and quality of the offerings, along with the number of students taking advantage of each option. The metrics vary from program to program.”
Though some of the programs do require special or additional training for teachers and administrators, Scott says the district has worked hard to limit adding additional personnel or expenses.
 

At the Schools

Perhaps no one is closer to the specific programs than the school principals themselves. Erma Nash Elementary is home to one of the two-way dual language opportunities. Tiffanie King, the principal there, says the faculty and community members of the school are dedicated to cultivating a climate and culture that provides educational experiences for students to develop two languages, and just as importantly, she says, a love for learning.

“The Two-Way Dual Language Program allows native English and Spanish speakers to teach, motivate and learn from one another throughout their time in the program,” says King. “These attributes are important to nurture from an early age, to build a sense of community and the ability to work collaboratively. We are excited for our students to be bilingual in both the English and Spanish languages.”

Brooks Wester Middle School is home to the STEM Academy and associate principal Victoria Webster is proud to be a part of the program. She says this advanced academic program, a rigorous curriculum of science, technology, engineering and math, offers students the opportunity to develop 21st century skills while creating solutions to real-world problems.

“Learners are immersed in a problem-based learning environment where they collaborate with peers while thinking critically and creatively,” says Webster. “During their time at the STEM Academy, learners gain knowledge in a variety of STEM career options, participate in STEM-based competitions and clubs, go on focused field trips, and have the opportunity to communicate with STEM professionals. All of this culminates in a portfolio of projects, activities and experiences that follow learners as they move to high school and post-secondary STEM studies.”

Timberview High School is host to the Early College High School Program where students are integrated into college classes (via Tarrant County College Southeast campus) the first semester of their freshman year. They gradually increase the number until they are taking almost all college classes during their senior year with the goal of graduating with a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit for free.

Erica Bennett, associate principal at Timberview says, “ECHS coaches students through their academic, professional and personal pursuit in a smaller, academically focused environment. This small learning community boosts instructional engagement, collaborative group work and classroom talk that propels students to think like a professional. With built-in study support, ECHS pushes students towards success in a rigorous collegiate environment.”

And that success at the next level, says Scott, is ultimately what the Mansfield ISD Power of Choice program is all about.

The Power of Choice

The Mansfield ISD’s “Power of Choice” program allows parents and students to choose their own educational pathway and take advantage of specific programs that are tailored to their needs. The options for the 2017-18 school year include two-way dual language, leadership academies, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) academy, and an early college high school. Note that some of the programs are already closed for this school year. Here are more details:
 
Two-Way Dual Language programs allow Spanish and English native speakers the opportunity to learn two languages through cooperative learning and collaboration. The programs also allow students to be college and career ready by becoming bilingual, bi-literate and multicultural.
 
Available locations: D.P. Morris Elementary School and Erma Nash Elementary School
Grade levels: Kindergarten (also first grade at Nash Elementary)
(The Two-Way Dual Language application window is now closed for this school year.)
 

Leadership Academies

The Martha Reid Leadership Academy challenges students to take ownership of their own learning and become leaders of today and future leaders of tomorrow. This school develops students to lead locally, nationally and globally and to empower students to become productive citizens by preparing students for college and career, community leadership and purposeful living in the 21st century.
 
The Tarver-Rendon School of Agricultural Leadership teaches core content and leadership skills through agricultural-based experiences. The “Planting the Seed” program includes classroom and field experiences and opportunities to work with Ben Barber Innovation Academy agriculture students and staff. The students also frequently access the Ron Whitson Science Agricultural Center and the Tarver-Rendon Discovery Park.

Available locations: Martha Reid Elementary School and Tarver-Rendon Elementary School
Grade levels: Grades K-4
 

STEM Academy

The STEM Academy at Brooks Wester Middle School is an advanced academic program designed to provide a rigorous and focused course of study emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The mission of the academy is to give learners a voice and choice to explore, create and innovate within real-world situations. Coursework is advanced and integrates project/problem-based learning with open learning environments.

Available location: Brooks Wester Middle School
Grade levels: Sixth grade (will eventually expand to grades 6-8)
(The STEM Academy application window is now closed for this school year.)
 

Early College High School

The Tarrant County College (TCC) Southeast Early College High School at Timberview allows students to be immersed in a college-going culture in all courses. The school also gives students an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and associate degree (up to 60 credit hours).

Available location: Timberview High School
Grade levels: Ninth grade (will eventually expand to grades 9-12)
(The ECHS application window is now closed for this school year.)

 
Frontier High School

Frontier High School is a state-of-the-art, innovative high school campus that focuses on post high school graduation preparatory programs. Students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, industry-recognized certificate, professional licensure and college hours. Students focus on certain areas of study, such as the Health Science Academy, that allow students to begin earning college credit hours through the Health Science Program at the Tarrant County College Trinity River East Campus (TREC).
 
Available location: Frontier High School
Grade levels: Grades 11-12

 
Find out more about the Power of Choice program by visiting www.mansfieldisd.org/choice.

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