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BEACON update given to District U-46 board


By Seth Hancock
  A transition update for South Elgin High School’s BEACON Academy, which has a media and digital arts focus, was given to the Board of Education in School District U-46 in early May.
  Kinasha Brown, director of educational pathways, said that the BEACON Academy was redesigned in 2017 with the “purpose and intent of revising the career focus courses and aligning to a magnet programming model as identified by Magnet Schools of America (MSA).” U-46 is seeking magnet status for academies at all five high schools.
  The work on South Elgin’s academy includes four phases while the update focused on the first and fourth phases. Phase I includes curriculum alignment and professional development and Phase IV is MSA certification status, and Brown said Phase II (facilities and equipment) and Phase III (community and post-secondary engagement) work is running concurrent with Phase I and is “ongoing.”
  Doreen Roberts, pathways design and implementation teacher leader, said that two Advanced Placement (AP) capstone courses, a seminar course for juniors and research course for seniors, have been added to the BEACON curriculum and will be aligned to the district’s dual language program. The courses were approved by the College Board last fall and will be classified as social studies electives.
  The seminar course will be piloted in the 2019-2020 school year with 32 students registered to take the course. The capstone courses will be mandatory electives for the class of 2023 for BEACON students.
  “The seminar course equips students to accurately analyze and evaluate information to craft and communicate an evidence-based argument,” Roberts said. “The research course provides the opportunity for students to reflect on their skill and development through a portfolio. This course consists of a year-long research investigation that has a culminating project at the end.”
  Tom Bozikis, a BEACON teacher, said current academy students have done commercials for clients and “we’ll take the students and we’ll teach them everything they need to know about creating a persuasive commercial.” He said students create practice commercials and later meet with 14 to 21 business clients to create commercials for them to use on social media or other media outlets.
  Roberts said the rubrics have been designed using standards based learning and assessment.
  “This investment will help our students build their dreams and continue their passion in this field, and it will give them a choice and this will build them connections,” Bozikis said.
  Regarding Phase IV and MSA certification, Brown said that staff from all five high school academies have been having ongoing discussions between December and May. In February, each school wrote diversity and magnet goal statements.
  This month, U-46 is taking part in its first MSA leadership retreat to develop timelines for each high school academy on goals to be able to earn magnet school status through MSA certification.

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