We are all hearing that Manual High School will be different in the fall, but do you really know what that means, and, more specifically, what it means for the business community? Due to No Child Left Behind legislation, Manual is required to undergo restructuring as it has not made adequate annual progress for the last several years. Drastic actions were required, and the Peoria Public School Board identified a methodology to determine what will happen at Manual. The Chamber has been involved on planning committees, the principal search committee and the career academy identification work group, and it will continue to be involved by serving on the community advisory committee.

The Talent Development High School (TDHS) model, developed at Johns Hopkins University, is being used to transform learning and teaching at Manual. This is all being done in collaboration with the community—the neighborhood, teachers, students, business community and anyone who wants to be a part of the change.

Several basic components of TDHS are critical to making this change, most notably a 9th grade success academy and three career or interest academies for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. Additionally, there will be a 7th and 8th grade academy at Manual in order to facilitate an earlier start on the pursuit of success.

This fall, the 7th, 8th and 9th grade programs will be in place, and, in the fall of 2009, the three career or interest academies will be instituted. Currently, the career/industry areas that are under consideration are: health and human services, industry and sustainable technology, and business and information technology. Each of these areas will offer a variety of career pathways. For instance, in industry and sustainable technology, possibilities include engineering, skilled trades, green technology and manufacturing. Each of these academies will feature dedicated faculty, intense involvement from members of the business community, a focus on skills needed for success beyond high school, and opportunities for lifelong learning.

Principal Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat has put together a new team of teachers and support staff who are undergoing significant training right now, and they are optimistic about the program’s potential. TDHS shows strong positive impacts particularly during the first year of high school because of its emphasis on combining high-quality curriculum with instructional enhancements. The program is able to achieve these successes by offering transitional math and English courses, creating teaching teams, and providing coaching for teachers, and it institutes pervasive structural and cultural reforms within the school by developing small learning communities and using extended class periods. Together, these initiatives are aimed at building a learning environment that is highly supportive in fostering success. These same characteristics then carry over into the upper-level academies. Results include better attendance, improved standardized test scores, a larger proportion of students achieving at grade level and an increased graduation rate.

What will the business community be asked to do? A great deal, and it is in our interest to step up and assist because the students they are educating now will be our employees in the coming years. Here are some of the things that will be asked of business:

What can you or your company do today to ensure the future success of Manual High School? Let the school district know you want to help. Call Dr. Herschel Hannah at Peoria Public Schools, 672-6580, and he will get you connected. iBi