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A+ College Ready Explained

This fall, Decatur City Schools will implement a new program called A Plus College Ready (A+CR) geared toward preparing our students for colleges and careers after high school.

What is A+CR?

To date, 76 school districts in Alabama have implemented A+ College Ready and have seen a 170% increase in qualifying scores while participating.

The goals of A+CR are to:

  1. Increase number of students exposed to rigorous coursework in core subject areas
  2. Increase access for girls, minority students, and students with low socioeconomic backgrounds
  3. Increase number of students meeting college readiness benchmarks (AP qualifying scores)
  4. Increase number of students succeeding in and graduating from college

By implementing A+ College Ready and joining other successful school districts in the pursuit of excellence, Decatur City Schools will offer the following schedule for coursework district-wide.

Students in grades 9-10 have 2 options for classes:

  1. Grade-level track classes
  2. Advanced track classes (aka Pre-AP)

Students in grades 11-12 have many more options so they can hand-tailor their educational experience to best prepare them for the future careers they anticipate:

  1. Grade-level classes (with increased rigor)
  2. Advanced Placement classes (aka AP classes)
  3. Dual Enrollment (a chance to earn college credit while still in high school)
  4. UA Early College (much like dual enrollment, just to a specific university, and if the student completes 30 credits, he can enroll at the University of Alabama without an ACT score.
  5. Virtual School
  6. Career Tech (which also allows for dual enrollment possibilities)
  7. Craft Academy (skilled trades workforce simulation)

Who is A+CR for?

Using these specialized course variations, Decatur City Schools is able to offer a plethora of options for every student.

Secondary Curriculum and Career Tech Director Dr. Tommy Davis says, “The bottom line is, A+CR courses are training for both students who plan to enter college AND for those who don’t. All students can benefit from the rigorous classes as they prepare for college or a technical career.

How does A+CR work?

A+CR takes a “scaffolded instruction” approach to fill in the gaps of understanding during lecture. This method allows a teacher to reiterate subject matter that they sense a certain student is lacking in, thus bringing the entire class (not just the majority of the class) up to a higher level of understanding the topic. This technique has been subconsciously employed by good teachers for many years, only now this will be built into the curriculum.

To practically integrate this technique into the curriculum, Davis recommends a scope and sequence method. Before delving into this discussion, it is crucial to define two terms:

  1. Scope = what the teachers are teaching
  2. Sequence = when the teachers teach it throughout the year

The scope and sequence method provides a framework for teachers to make sure all the material is covered. “Scope and sequence is a map of what and when,” Davis says.

“It’s about a higher standard of learning and teaching,” Davis says. “We will place a large emphasis on pacing for teachers to make sure students are learning the required skills.”

The A+CR program focuses on developing rigor in the classroom to challenge both students and teachers.

Davis defines rigor as “depth of mastery.” So if a class is more rigorous, then it doesn’t necessarily have more class work, it just has a deeper level of understanding regarding the subject matter. For example, if a math teacher was told to teach a more rigorous math class, he would not add more homework problems, he would use the same amount of homework problems, but change them to exercise the student’s ability to think critically and apply the knowledge they are practicing. 

Why is A+CR important?

So why all the hype? Why increase rigor in a class that seems to be fine without it?

Because education is changing with the times, Davis explains. “The workforce is not going to hire a skilled laborer to stand on a production line and put nuts and bolts together anymore,” he says. “The workforce is going to hire the person who wants to design a robot to do it for him.”

So by encouraging students to think outside the box and take more rigorous classes, Decatur City Schools is practically preparing them for a world that expects them to rise above nuts and bolts. Using A+CR, we’re creating a generation ready to not just contribute to the workforce, but to revolutionize it.