Taft’s 8th Grade Academic Center students choosing to remain for high school




by BRIAN NADIG

An increasing number of graduates of the Taft High School Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center are forgoing their acceptance to a selective enrollment high school and are choosing to remain at Taft.

About 75 of the center’s 110 eighth graders are enrolling at Taft for the fall semester. “Seventy is huge for us, doubling it in a couple of years,” Taft principal Mark Grishaber said at the March 15 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.

Grishaber said after the meeting that the increase is a testament to the progress that the school is making. “It’s great when a student has a choice and they choose us,” he said.

The center, which requires admissions testing, was started at Taft in the late 1990s as a way to attract more local students to the neighborhood school, while a group of parents had been lobbying to make Taft’s curriculum more challenging. However, in the past most of the graduates of the center have enrolled at a gifted school or a private school.

Taft’s Level 1 performance rating and its International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which allows students to earn college credit, are among the reasons that Taft has become more attractive to the center’s graduates, Grishaber said. The international baccalaureate philosophy, which encourages critical thinking and independent student projects, is being incorporated throughout the school’s curriculum.

The center’s students also have cited the school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination Program as a reason for staying at Taft, assistance principal Eric Flores said.

The program is designed to give students the studying skills needed to succeed in honors and Advanced Placement classes and to help them participate in a variety of activities to better prepare them for college. The average ACT score for AVID participants is 23, compared to a school average of 19.6, Grishaber said.

While Taft is keeping many of center’s graduates, those who were selected to the city’s top two rated schools, Northside Prep and Payton, are not staying, Grishaber said.

Also at the meeting, it was reported that Taft is cutting an additional $196,000 from its budget this school year as part of a “suggested savings” amount that the school system gave principals in early March, Grishaber said. “They looked at all individual school budgets, and they came up with these individual savings,” he said.

It is not clear what would happen to a school which does not meet its savings goal, Grishaber said.

The latest cutback follows a loss of about $458,000 from Taft’s budget in January as part of a mid-year cost-savings initiative throughout the system. “We did kind of take a hit as far as our reserves,” Grishaber said.

Taft has not lost any teachers as a result of the budget changes, but the school was instructed not to fill a security position, Grishaber said. Some of the cost savings have been taken out of the school’s supply budget, including the purchase of paper, he said.

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