Leader Blues

Monday, May 21, 2007

TOP STORY >>ACE school honored in U.S. capital

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Cabot’s charter school, the Academic Center of Excellence (ACE), has been recognized as a national charter school of the year by the Center of Education Reform, the nation’s premiere education-reform group.

Representatives from the program, including June Elliott, the school district’s director of federal programs, who wrote the charter for the school three years ago, were honored recently at a reception in Washington.

The Cabot School Board learned about the school’s honor during the regular meeting earlier this month.

The ACE was selected from among about 4,000 charter schools across the nation serving 1.5 million students. The ACE has 200 students and a waiting list of 35, but this fall the charter school will move from the old school administration building to the top floor of old Community Bank building owned by the city.

The ACE has received state approval to increase enrollment from 200 to 500 for grades 5-12, and Elliott says the new accommodations in the old bank building will provide the space needed to expand.

Elliott said the school is graduating 47 seniors this year who will walk Friday night with the seniors from the high school.
The school works because it gives students what they need, she said.

“The charter schools are innovative,” she said. “We designed them for students who don’t fit the regular high school, who don’t fit the regular junior high.”

Elliott says the ACE teaches the three Rs, rigor, relevance and relationship.

The program includes distance learning, projects and online work. Students work at their own pace with flexible hours, some as many as 60 hours a week.

“ACE has served as a model for customizing the educational opportunities for our students in the district,” Dr. Frank Holman, Cabot superintendent, said during the board meeting. “We have a model of high-quality learning for all children and it has saved many from dropping out or losing interest in school,” he said.

All charter schools in the country were eligible for the honor the ACE received. Elliott said the elimination process started with a survey and followed by a more in-depth questionnaire. Then the Center of Education Reform went online and researched the Cabot school before selecting it.

Evaluation of the schools proceeded along four themes: achievement, planning and execution, satisfaction, and policies and programs. Each theme included 12 additional criteria, such as improvement over time; percentage of at-risk students served, meeting mission and goals, and parental involvement.