PALMETTO -- Lincoln Middle School will introduce a new choice program in the fall, offering more rigorous courses for academically gifted students, and creating a path to the same program at Palmetto High School.
The school was recently approved to become a Cambridge International Advanced International Certificate of Education -- also called AICE -- Secondary 1 program, created specifically for middle school students. The high school level of the program is already offered at Palmetto High. The new program at Lincoln will challenge students academically and help prepare them for the high school program.
Students who complete the program will graduate with a special degree and be able to earn college credits. While similar to the more well-known international baccalaureate program, the AICE program is different enough to provide a better opportunity for some learners, Lincoln principal Ed Hundley said.
"The biggest difference in the AICE program is you get to select those subject areas, your strengths," Hundley said.
A student may struggle with English Language Arts, maybe because English isn't their first language, but they excel in math. They wouldn't fit well in the IB, but would be a good candidate for the AICE program, where they would still take core English Language Arts classes, but be able to dive deeper into math courses.
One class of seventh-grade students in each subject will start in the fall. The second year, those students will be in eighth-grade and then the third year, the school will start fresh with sixth-grade students and grow the program, Hundley said. Speaking to the school board on Tuesday, Hundley was flanked by Debora Shannon, who is leading the English Language Arts side of the program and Tony Alves will lead the math side of the program. In addition to challenging the students academically, teachers have to buy into the program.
"Teachers create their own curriculum. There's not a book per say," Shannon said. "You have guidelines as to what they're expected to know."
Current sixth-grade students will test into the program, Hundley said, and the school is looking for qualified students to enroll.
"It's the brightest of the brightest," Hundley said. "We don't want to put them in there to not be successful."
There is a fee for the program, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia Saunders said, but the district gets money back when students pass the AICE exams. In the long run, the program will pay for itself, she said. It also helps ensure kids stay in school and graduate.
In coming years, the district will also look to implement the elementary version of the AICE program.
"Possibly even next year we'll hopefully identify a school and start that process," Saunders said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.