By Frédéric M. Martin, MUSD Community Engagement Consultant
The Madera Unified District is about to leapfrog into the next generation in education practice with a uniquely innovative program currently named concurrent enrollment. In two years, MUSD will make history as it launches a first-in-California educational experience in a state-of-the-art facility to be located across the street from the recently opened Virginia Lee Rose elementary school. The new program aims to deliver a multifaceted, participatory environment to stimulate middle school students’ interest by replacing the traditional lecture format, with a fully engaging teaching formula wherein students don’t just listen and take notes, but actively experience learning. Encompassing six core programs — Agriculture, Engineering/Robotics, Health, Public Safety, Entrepreneurship and Visual/Performing Arts. The six main topics are designed to seamlessly integrate into their corresponding and fully operational MUSD high school career pathways.
Eighth-grade students will explore their interests through the pathways, without locking them into a specific track, but rather expose them to all core subjects laid out before them. The students’ in-depth exposure to the programs will help them discover unsuspected interests and help them integrate knowledge via hands on experience as they participate in the laboratory environment available to them in the new facility.
The program’s goal is simple and straightforward: students will feel empowered and engaged. Study after study demonstrate that CTE lab environments stimulate interest and voluntary participation like no other educational program, resulting in sharply improved grades and graduation rates.
As Sandon Schwartz, MUSD Deputy Superintendent and Rosalind Cox, Director, Facilities Planning/Construction Management stated at the start of our interview: “some students become disengaged in the educational process, at the start of their freshman year, at which time, we can already identify the students who will have a hard time, making it through the four years of high school.”
The CTE (Career Technical Education) lab courses program, already in place, gives students access to hands on courses in a lab environment, but not until their junior or senior high school year. For some students, that’s too late into their high school career, and the new program will engage them earlier in their academic journey.
Seeing real world applications at an earlier age will enhance their interest by replacing the traditional educational system of lecture driven learning; with the new process, students will work on projects, in collaborative teams, self- explore, and absorb self-motivated, lifelong learning skills.
Today, the MUSD middle schools are growing, almost to capacity and making a unique, shared laboratory facility available to all middle schools in the district makes economic and academic sense. The concurrent enrollment project is similar to the CART (Center for Advanced Research and Technology) model in Clovis. CART was designed as a joint venture with the Fresno Unified School District to deliver similar services to Fresno area high school students. Madera-native Todd Lile, MUSD’s superintendent, taught labs at CART and his invaluable experience and firsthand exposure to palpable results in the improvement of student performance guided the decision process.
The new 38,000 square feet building will be made available to all eligible MUSD eighth-graders with two, daily, 600-student sessions, mornings and afternoons. The students will have three classes at the interactive center and three classes at their own school campus. Although there is no comparable program anywhere in California, a similar program, called STEAM, was recently launched in South Carolina.
The school district is in the process of formulating the program’s application criteria. Concurrent enrollment will give access to the facility to, roughly half of the Madera eighth-grade student body in the initial implementation of the program, scheduled to launch in the 2020-2021 school year. Look for more information on the program and how to enroll your children on the MUSD website and in future issues of the We Believe Newspaper.