Mesa district's Summit Academy evolves into school of choice - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Mesa district's Summit Academy evolves into school of choice

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 7:00 am | Updated: 2:56 pm, Mon Aug 27, 2012.

Chandler's Summit Academy came to life two years ago during a time of transition in the Mesa Unified School District.

Faced with declining enrollment and a changing educational fabric, among other ideas adopted by the district’s governing board, district officials developed an idea to convert Frost Elementary and Hendrix Junior High schools – adjoining campuses that sit in Chandler – into a neighborhood International Baccalaureate academy for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Since then, the campus as a whole has gained more than 100 students, growing to about 1,100 today. Close to 53 percent of the students on the elementary side are there on an open enrollment application. About a fifth of the junior high students are also from outside the neighborhood.

So while the campus is first a neighborhood school for those who live in the area, it’s also become a school of choice.

The elementary school already had the “Primary Years Programme” in place that was part of the International Baccalaureate’s menu of options for students. The junior high offered IB’s “middle years” program as an option, but with the birth of the academy, it became an inclusion program for all seventh- and eighth-grade students.

International Baccalaureate – an internationally recognized program that’s delivered to thousands of students around the globe – offers advanced learning with the focus on preparing students for college. Students are taught how to be citizens of the world. Because Summit Academy is a public school, teachers must also tie all the learning together with the state’s standards and the Common Core Standards the state has adopted.

International Baccalaureate classes are also offered in the northern part of the Mesa district. The Mesa Academy for Advanced Studies includes the “middle years” IB program. That school, however, requires an application process for enrollment. Summit Academy is open to anyone, as long as there is room.

A diploma program – also offered through an application process – has been in place for several years at Mesa’s Westwood High School.

While a vast majority of the students leaving Summit Academy go on to Dobson High School, the area’s neighborhood high school, some do move to Westwood, principal Mark Andrews said.

Andrews said the success of the school can be tied to its “very, very dedicated teachers” and strong parental involvement.

“I have a great staff. That’s why the parents and children are coming. It’s all about the students. The staff make the children feel welcome here,” he said.

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