In 2016, the voters of Maricopa approved a budget override for the local school system, Maricopa Unified School District. The funds were used to meet three objectives: purchase needed technology, hire additional teachers to reduce class size in the elementary schools and create an alternative high school. This column focuses on the third objective.
It is well established that the lack of a high school diploma has a serious, negative effect on an individual’s lifetime earnings and, thus, that person’s quality of life. Research has demonstrated some students cannot succeed in a standard high school environment, and an alternative school, typically a school within a school, can provide an opportunity for students to earn that elusive diploma.
The MUSD alternative high school is the RAM Academy, which has already helped more than 100 students earn their diploma. In addition, the program has assisted other students in recovering credits that allowed these students to successfully graduate from Maricopa High School. How does the RAM Academy motivate students on a path to dropping out of school to succeed?
The program uses the following steps to help its students find success:
- Dedicated, experienced, supportive and personable teaching staff
Credit recovery (Students can earn eight or more credits per year.)
Students can work from home in addition to their regular campus attendance to finish faster.
- Students can take the specific classes they need to fulfill state-mandated graduation requirements.
- The program follows a four-day afternoon/early evening schedule with optional Fridays for extra help.
- Classes are taken through an online learning platform and supplemented with in-person teacher support.
- Free lunch
- Finally, students are reminded the key to success lies in their own motivation and willingness to attend class regularly, stay focused and work hard.
- Next month, voters will be asked to approve an extension of the MUSD override. Certainly, the RAM Academy, which has already taken more than 100 potential problem citizens and converted them into positive contributors, by itself, justifies a YES vote on the override extension. Programs that effectively utilize taxpayer money deserve to be continued.
Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has more than 44 years of teaching experience and volunteers at Butterfield Elementary School.
This story was previously published in the October edition of InMaricopa Magazine.