CASE STUDIES

Forrest Hills Academy, GA

Overview

Forrest Hills Academy (Grades 6-12) serves up to 200 students per year, either suspended from their local school or adjudicated for crimes outside school. Male and female students spend from 10 days to a full school year at FHA.

In 2015, the Administration of Atlanta Public Schools elected to restructure this alternative school’s entire program, including its culture and what happens in the classroom. New Principal Zacharias Robinson invited Illinois21 to help introduce his vision from a “holding pen school” to a community of learners in which students could “turn themselves around” through a program that would engage their minds. After discussions with key Illinois21 staff, it decided that Illinios21 would facilitate the changeover in 3-5 years with MindQuest21 as a center piece.

In the first year, site leaders and teachers investigated the MindQuest21 all school approach. With Illinios21 staff and APS leaders, FHA began revisions of the school’s culture, policies and procedures, instructional practice, and assessment. Plans were initiated for a Maker Lab, a school garden, and internships in construction, hotel management, culinary practice, and digital media taught exclusively through MindQuest21.

Goals

  • Adopt a new school vision and mission intending to advance students as 21st Century productive citizens.
  • Create a culture of mutual respect and trust among all stakeholders in the school.
  • Prepare all faculty and the administrative team to redesign curriculum, instruction, and assessment by aligning Units of Study with STEAM in the PBI instructional model.
  • Develop a library of PBI/STEAM units across the curriculum so that educators at FHA could sustain and scale the implementation of PBI as the primary means of instruction for the district mandated Units of Study
  • Change the school’s policy, procedures, programs, and practices to align with the school’s new vision and mission with an emphasis on the development of pro-social skills grounded in positive communication and collaboration.
  • Seek alignment of the restructured FHA with district policy and practice.

Specifications

  • Fall: FHA/APS visited Illinios21 exemplars to observe MindQuest21. Illinois21 team visits FHA to observe classroom practice and to initiate 3-5 year plan.
  • Winter: 4 day Professional Learning Experience introduces PBI and starts FHA house teams’ design of new PBI Units of Study. Teams complete unit plans prior to month long state tests.
  • Spring: Teams introduce first PBI units to students.
  • Summer: Teams/IlC21 review first units and design 2nd units for start of school year. Second year program planned and started.
  • Fall: Monthly observations and conferences allow ILC21 consultants to provide live and on-line coaching, assist site leaders with plans for Maker Space and to assess implementation progress. Math team meets on line with math consultant to integrate math and PBI. Follow up on line coaching for math team.
  • Early Winter: Institute day dedicated to planning 3rd Units and considering options for aligning school culture with new emphasis on creating a climate of mutual trust and respect. Committees initiated for preparing maker space, integrating SEL into PBI units. (Program’s temporary suspension due to fiscal crisis in APS).
  • Winter: Renew classroom observations and conferences and introduce faculty to the new Maker Lab and ways to integrate it into PBL units. Illinois21 consultant confers with FHA Special Needs and other support personnel to examine how to ensure intake procedures will support new practices at FHA. Model developed for Entry PBL for all new FHA students with an emphasis on discovering high expectations, norms of respect and collaboration and their value to the students’ success at school and work.
  • Mid-Spring: Observations and conferences continue. Start of plans for 4th Units
  • Spring: APS District financial difficulties end formal program. Third year not begun.