Freshman Academy

STARS, the freshman academy, assists students with the transition from middle to high school.  Faculty and staff work together to produce a positive, supportive environment within the academy, a small school within our school housed in a distinct corner of our building.  The purpose is to help more students succeed in college-prep academic courses in high school and prepare for challenging postsecondary education, careers and lifelong learning.

In various forms, a freshman academy has been a part of the OVHS program since the mid-90’s.  Begun an as an extra-help program for academically at-risk students (based on their 8th grade ISTEP scores), the academy has      undergone two other transformations.  First, the entire freshman class was divided into tiers, one for the at-risk students and the other for the students with a greater chance of success on Indiana’s ISTEP.  This manner of tracking was replaced with STARS, comprised of the Red House and the Blue House, two heterogeneous-grouped houses (with the exception of Project Lead the Way freshmen).   Each house is comprised of the approximately 125 students and their academic core teachers.  In 2006-07 another transformation will see the White House, tailored to the PLTW freshmen, added to the program.

Using a different bell schedule than the rest of OVHS, most freshmen take their core courses – Algebra I, English 9, and Biology I all year long, for their first three 50-minute periods.  Also during their STARS time, freshmen take Career Orientation, Interpersonal Relations and World History or Personal Finance.  Once a week, STARS students meet with one of their teachers in an adviser/advisee setting, where they learn and practice success skills and work on becoming good school citizens.  The freshmen leave the academy during the last period of the school day to take an elective class. 

Goals of the STARS Academy include improved student achievement, as measured by the number of freshmen earning all their credits, the increase in the class’s G.P.A., the number of students recognized for achievement; improved student attendance; improved connections among freshmen, their peers and their teachers; increased participation in school activities; increased communication with parents; increased pride in academic performance, respect in groups settings, and concern for facility cleanliness.  Near the end of the year, students will be asked to select a career academy in which to focus their academics for the rest of their high school experience.

A significant aspect of OVHS’s freshmen academy is the shared planning time provided to the teachers of the Red and Blue houses. At least weekly, they function as a professional learning community.  They co-plan interdisciplinary units, align courses with state academic standards, develop assessments, organize enrichment activities, examine student work.  Throughout the year, units on metabolism has linked all subjects of the academy. 

Equally important are the adviser-advisee and extra help components.  Ideally, the teacher advisor is an adult who knows the student well, and also cares about, defends, and helps the student fulfill his or her academic potential.  The advisor motivates the students to achieve at higher levels and maintains parent contact when a celebration or intervention is needed.  Some freshmen receive extra help in a lab setting, special study hall, or after-school turoring room. 

STARS faculty members include: Red Team - Carol Tucker, Algebra; Rebecca Guest-Scott, English; Dedra Gardner, Biology; Blue Team - Larissa Hannon, Algebra; Melissa Wells, English; Brent Ranard, Biology; other teachers involved with both the Red and Blue Team are Steve Grigsby, Careers & PE Diana Nichols, Interpersonal Relations, Computer Applications & Financial Planning; Brian Greene, World History; Joanne Fowerbaugh, Resource; Joy French, Resource.  White Team - Suzanne Boling, Chemistry and Geometry; Marcus Wenzel, English and World History.  Kim Magness and Dianne Shewmaker are the freshmen guidance counselors.