Mike Bitz: Mandan’s new alternative school, the Brave Center Academy
Over the last three years the cohort graduation rate at Mandan High School, figured as the percentage of freshmen who graduate within four years, has varied between 79 and 84 percent. This is just below the state average of 85 percent. These numbers are frustrating to everyone involved, as we want all of our students to leave high school with a diploma. Unfortunately for many students, this is not the case. Most students do not drop out because they are not smart enough to graduate; they drop out because they are having difficulty balancing school, work, and situations they may be dealing with in their personal lives.
In an effort to help these at-risk students succeed, many districts across North Dakota have set up alternative high schools to structure the high school coursework in a way that allows students to be successful. Instead of working on five or six classes simultaneously, an alternative high school allows students to work on one or two classes at a time until those classes are complete. For example, a student may work on Algebra for two to three hours a day for a month in order to complete that class as opposed to taking the class for one hour per day for a full semester. Additionally, a student attending an alternative high school may have a different daily schedule than students in the traditional high school setting.
During this past year the Mandan School Board formed an At-Risk Committee to study the feasibility of operating an alternative school in Mandan. As a result of the committee’s work, the board approved the opening of a new alternative school called Brave Center Academy.
Prior to the 2012-13 school year, Mandan was the only Class A high school in North Dakota without an alternative high school. Instead of operating its own alternative school, Mandan contracted with Bismarck Public Schools to reserve seats at South Central High School. SCHS did an excellent job of educating Mandan students who needed an alternative high school environment, but the cost of the program limited the number of students that Mandan could send to SCHS. In order to provide this service, Mandan paid Bismarck tuition costs for these students and forfeited the state foundation aid for the 10.19 Mandan students at SCHS. By starting the Brave Center Academy the Mandan School District will more efficiently serve at-risk students without having them to go outside of the school district and will be able to reach a larger number of students while doing so.
The Brave Center Academy is proving to be a successful program for the Mandan School District and the students it is serving. Last year (2011-12), Mandan sent the equivalent of 10.19 full-time students to SCHS. Together, these students earned 44 high school credits.
This year the Brave Center Academy began this school year with 13 students enrolled and has since expanded to 16 students. Classes are held daily from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. To date, students enrolled in the Brave Center Academy have cumulatively earned 5.5 credits during the first month of school. I am proud to say that we already have one graduate from the program; a student completed the one credit she needed to graduate and received her Mandan High School Diploma.
If you have any questions about the Brave Center Academy, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached by phone at 751-6500 or via email at Mike.Bitz@msd1.org.