Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

What Does Quality Programming Mean for High Achieving Students?

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

What Does Quality Programming Mean for High Achieving Students?

Article excerpt

Introduction

The structure and design of public education in the USA tends to focus on the low-to-moderately performing students. While such efforts are noble in that they strive to ensure the success of all students, the unintended effect is to leave the gifted, talented and high performing students unchallenged. Colangelo et all, have characterized the American K-12 school system as keeping "bright students in line by forcing them to learn in a lock-step manner with their classmates". Cloud (2) gives specific examples of how this practice not only hurts specific students, but also the entire society. This phenomenon of neglect and isolation of the high performing students is not limited to the classroom milieu; Hebert and McBee (3) reported that this also takes place in all aspects of these adolescents' lives.

In response to this grinding mediocrity in the K-12 public school environment, the Missouri Academy was created with three distinctive qualities in mind. The first was to develop a program that matches the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of gifted, talented and high performing students. The second quality was that the environment would be nurturing; a place where exceptionally high performing and/or gifted students can live and learn in a community of peers, while continuing to develop their critical thinking skills. The third quality was to take advantage of the intellectual abilities of these students and their willingness to learn, by preparing them for success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. This third key quality arose from local and national reports (4,5,6) addressing imminent shortage of US college/university graduates in STEM fields.

The University Setting: Northwest Missouri State University (or simply, Northwest) is home to the Missouri Academy. Northwest is funded by the state of Missouri and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). It is a public four-year, regional, moderately selective, Masters II university (based on the Carnegie Classification (7)), and focuses on undergraduate education. The university offers 126 undergraduate majors, 35 master's programs, 3 specialist's degrees and a cooperative doctorate in Educational Leadership--in collaboration with the University of Missouri-Columbia. Other prominent features of Northwest Missouri State University include the following;

* National and state leader in Quality Systems

* Three-time winner of the prestigious Missouri Quality Award

* Finalist for the National Malcolm Baldridge Award (2004 and 2005)

* Christa McAuliffe National Award for Excellence in Teacher Education in 2006

* Nation's First Comprehensive "Electronic Campus"--Northwest was established in 1905 and the "Electronic Campus" started in 1987

* The total student population is 6,613, with 5,661 undergraduates and 952 graduate students

* There are 253 international students from 46 different nations

* The student/faculty ratio is 22:1

* An Honors Program is available to high performing undergraduate students

The focus on undergraduate education, small class sizes, strong liberal arts program, and strong tradition of emphasis on quality are characteristics that form an environment well suited for a school like the Missouri Academy. Thus, the Missouri Academy is an early-entrance-to-college (or accelerated) school that is set in a university environment and designed as follows:

* A cohort of high performing students, who have completed 10th grade from traditional high schools, is selected and brought to the live on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University. The school replaces a student's junior and senior years of traditional high school.

* While in residence on campus, the interplay between their academic studies and residential life is crucial to their overall success:

* Academic studies: students are enrolled in a curriculum of university courses taught by university professors--these Missouri Academy students attend the same classes together with traditional university students, and professors have the same high expectations of them as they do for traditional university students. …

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