Academy means graduation success | News

LANCASTER — One-hundred percent of seventh-grade students who attended Knight Preparatory Academy in its first year and continued on to Knight High School’s award-winning Digital Design and Engineering Academy will go on to college, join the military or attend a trade school after they graduate this year.

The middle school students represent 6% of the Knight High’s Class of 2021; 40% of the Top 10 in that class rank; and 20% of the top 100 in that class rank.

The junior high school program, part of the Antelope Valley Union High School District’s Academies of the Antelope Valley dependent charter school, opened in August 2015 at the north end of the Knight High campus. The academy has a science, technology, engineering and mathematics focus. Academy students are eligible to apply for the Digital Design and Engineering Academy.

The school started with 90 seventh-graders with three cohorts of 30 students each. Every student who applied to the academy was accepted regardless of his or her background.

Of the original group of students, 45 students applied to the Digital Design and Engineering Academy. Forty-two of those students were accepted in the program. One of the three students who were not accepted reapplied the following year and was accepted.

The other half of students applied for Knight High’s Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program, or other academies such as Palmdale High School’s Health Careers Academy. Others applied to SOAR High School, or moved to high schools closer to home.

Of the 43 students accepted into the program, 38 students will graduate from Knight High School in June. The remaining five students moved out of the District. Of the students who opted to complete the six-year course of study for the Digital Design and Engineering Academy, 65% have already been accepted to a four-year university.

An additional 29% of the students elected to attend community college. Another 11% joined or plan to join the military, including one student who graduated a semester early. Three-percent of students plan to attend a trade school.

“We wanted students to be successful; we wanted to provide them an opportunity to make a solid transition,” former Knight High teacher James Stockdale, who helped plan the academy and now teaches there, said during a presentation at the Feb. 24 school Board meeting. “We wanted to provide a continuity to their learning, and from everything we can tell, we have accomplished that.”

Stockdale added 100% of students who started at the academy and continued on to the Digital Design an Engineering Academy have solid, verifiable transitional plans.

For example, one student received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago. Students have also been accepted to the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. Another student has been offered a scholarship to the University of Connecticut.

Others will attend one of the California state university campuses, which have already sent out acceptance notices. Other students are waiting for results from the University of California campuses and private universities.

Stockdale said math continues to be an area that requires strong supports. Although enrollment of young women has increased, it has not increased enough. The program reached a 50-50 ratio between young women and young men by the time the Knight Prep students joined the Digital Design and Engineering Academy at the high school.

“It’s something that we had been working to accomplish for years and we were very excited to be able to reach that in the high school,” Stockdale said.

Moving forward, Stockdale recommended the middle school add a sixth grade level to provide a better continuity of learning for students. That would put the academy in alignment with the shift to sixth through eighth-grade middle school programs from seventh and eighth grade junior highs across the state.

According to Stockdale, multiple studies demonstrate that the earlier the intervention in math and reading the stronger the likelihood for closing the achievement gap. In addition, young women exposed to STEM opportunities early are five times more likely to consider STEM careers.

Student trustee Elijah Johnson, who attended Knight Prep and is now part of the Digital Design and Engineering Academy, praised the program and the opportunities it affords students.

“I was given an opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico and take part in a service project of giving solar (energy) to the island of Vieques. It was an amazing time,” Johnson said, adding he also made friends through the program.

Board President Jill McGrady asked District staff to prepare a proposal to add sixth grade to Knight Prep.