Teachers formulated the Academic Course Enhancement Program, or ACE, to help prepare at-risk students for high school by working on character building, time management and study skills.
"They identify, do I have all the resources necessary to be a successful student," said Roy Merideth, junior high school principal. He said most students at the junior high school level want to graduate, but sometimes lack the resources to reach the goal.
"When you talk to them individually, they don't know how," he said.
One aspect of the class focuses on completing high school. He said the plan graduation will help students understand the concept of credit and the seriousness of high school curriculum, Merideth said.
The high school has a similar program for freshmen, Preparing for Academic Success, or PAS.
At the junior high school, there will be six sections for each grade capped at 10 students. At its inception, Merideth said the program was to target under-resourced learners, students coming from poverty or who have other obstacles at home. He said student participation will be determined by Missouri Assessment Program scores, reading assessments, and disciplinary and attendance issues.
During the first semester, 34 seventh-graders and 38 eighth-graders failed two or more core courses. Those numbers represent 12.8 percent and 14.5 percent of the school's student population, respectively. About 52 percent of the junior high school students also qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Assistant superintendent Pat Fanger said the program will target students at a critical point in their education.
Fanger said she hopes the program will create a welcoming learning environment and improve relationships with struggling students.
"They're going to do a lot of self-planning and learning how to care about education," Fanger said.
For the past four years, the school had an at-risk class taught by a part-time teacher. The new program will "widen the net" and include more students, Merideth said. Two teachers, one from communication arts and one from math, will be moved from their current classes to teach the program, he said. The class will fulfill one of two elective class requirements.
Merideth said the school is implementing two other plans next year to streamline the learning process. Math, communication arts, social studies and science classes will be blocked together. Teachers will share the same students and meet once a week to discuss struggling students, he said. Literature and composition classes will also be blocked together with the same teacher so students have more consistency with those subjects, he said.
205 Caruthers Cape Girardeau, MO