Originally Published: August 29, 2007 7:22 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne visited Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy Tuesday because of its cutting- edge learning curriculum and educational reform.
Horne is interested in looking at Northpoint, which is in its second year of existence, as a model for future Arizona schools.
"This school is doing a lot of exceptional things that should motivate students," he said. "I'm certainly impressed with what I've seen."
Because this is the first year Northpoint has a sophomore class, students will take the AIMS test for the first time
as well. Horne said he will be looking at the school's AIMS scores to see how well the teaching methods and curriculum work.
Northpoint, a college prep Outward Bound school, follows an expeditionary learning model where students study in the field, not just in the classroom. Many of their lesson plans involve hands-on work and revolve around a common semester-long theme.
Northpoint Director Geneva Saint-Amour said Prescott Mile High Middle School has incorporated some expeditionary learning into its curriculum, and Skyview School, a charter school, follows the Outward Bound model as well. However, she emphasized Northpoint, which is a mainstream high school in the Prescott Unified School District, was built specifically for this type of learning. It is the only school of its kind in Arizona.
At Northpoint, students use laptops in place of textbooks, an idea that interested Horne greatly.
"I made a proposal to the legislature this year to fund more pilot schools using one student per laptop," he said, adding that computers are a good way to speak to kids "in a language they understand."
As she led Horne around the school, which currently operates at the Dexter Family Resource Center, Saint- Amour explained the impact of the current curriculum of her academy, the trips the students have taken.
"We're teaching them to become critical thinkers," she told Horne.
Saint-Amour also led Horne into some of the classrooms and gave him a chance to answer questions from students, especially from Cassie Habeck's ninthgrade crew class - a session similar to homeroom.
"How come there are no schools like this one?" one of the kids asked Horne.
"You're leading the way; you're innovative," Horne said.
He encouraged the kids to study hard for their AIMS tests. "We're going to be looking at the AIMS scores from this school to see how well it works," he said.
The students told Horne how much they love Northpoint for features such as the small classes and the field trips.
"I think (the visit) went very well. I enjoyed watching (Horne) interact with the students," Saint-Amour said. "I hope (this visit) will increase (the Prescott community's) awareness of Northpoint. I hope others around the state will take notice and want to follow the model."
Saint-Amour also expressed confidence in her sophomores' ability to do well on the AIMS tests this year.
"I think (the Northpoint model) could spread really quickly," Horne said. "We do want to spread the word about the availability of these kinds of options."