Building a bridge to college

A pilot program starting up at Anoka High School next year will target ninth-grade students in the academic middle, readying them for concurrent enrollment courses by their junior year of high school.

The program, called Bridge to College, adds a third trimester of math to “proficient” freshmen’s schedules, according to Associate Superintendent of High Schools Jeff McGonigal.

Students planning to take advanced or remedial math courses will not see their schedules altered by Bridge to College, Anoka High School Principal Mike Farley said.

Currently, most ninth-grade students enroll in a two-trimester intermediate algebra course.

This month, approximately 60 to 65 percent of eighth graders entering Anoka High School will register for the new three-trimester intermediate algebra course as they design their freshmen schedules. They will earn one math credit and one-half elective credit for the course.

The additional trimester of math means students will register for five electives, not six as many freshmen had previously.

Students can still take three terms of music and two terms of a world language, McGonigal told the Anoka-Hennepin District 11 School Board at its meeting Dec. 9.

In 2015, “proficient” sophomores will enroll in a three-trimester English class.

The added trimesters both freshmen and sophomore years will allow teachers to spend time on “soft skills,” such as time management and test taking, according to Rachel Frosch, a teacher on special assignment at Anoka High School who is part of a team that’s been working on Bridge to College for nearly two years.

The team includes Farley, Frosch, McGonigal, Career and College Specialist Colleen Neary, Counselor Kim Nelson and Principal on Special Assignment Todd Protivinsky.

After implementation at Anoka High School this coming school year, the team envisions Bridge to College in all of Anoka-Hennepin’s high schools by 2015, Farley said.

Added mathematics and English trimesters will hopefully ready students for college-level curriculum by their junior year.

Currently, concurrent enrollment is an option only if a student’s class rank, grade-point average, ACT score and ACCUPLACER test score is high enough. With Bridge to College, students can bypass those requirements if their MAP and PLAN scores indicate proficiency and they earn a grade of “B” or better in the math and English foundational courses as underclassmen.

Anoka-Hennepin is working with Anoka-Ramsey Community College and St. Cloud State University to create concurrent enrollment classes that fit into the Minnesota transfer curriculum and determine which district teachers are qualified to teach the college-level courses in the schools.

“We’re going to be going at a rocket pace,” Farley said.

Curriculum is not fully developed yet. Educators are in the process of writing it.

“If we are successful, hundreds more students will graduate from Anoka High School – eventually all our high schools – ready for postsecondary education,” McGonigal said at the Nov. 25 board meeting. “They would do so with many college credits already completed.”

Bridge to College is possible with a Voluntary Public School Choice grant through the Minnesota Department of Education. It is modeled after a program at Irondale High School.

The school board approved the implementation of required three-term mathematics and English courses at Anoka High School at its meeting Dec. 9.

Bridge to College aligns with the board’s goals of targeting students in the academic middle, Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said.

“We’re really trying to improve opportunities for all students,” Farley said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]