U-46 audit takes a close look at the high school academies
In terms of sharing information with the public, one of the most notable initiatives Elgin Area School District U-46 has undertaken in the past few years is hiring outside experts to review the district's programs and processes.
The audits -- all available to the public and worth checking out -- include reviews of the district's bilingual and special education programs, plant operations, information services and human resources and transportation departments.
The most recent audit examined the district's high school academies -- schools-within-schools for gifted and talented students.
Many of the findings echoed those of a previous audit of the district's gifted program for elementary and middle school students.
U-46, the audit found, needs to divert more resources to the academies; increase the rigor of some parts of the academy curriculum; and recruit from all segments of the student body.
The audit also made specific suggestions for the academies:
• The Larkin High School Visual and Performing Arts Academy "requires immediate attention," the audit found.
The academy as it was originally conceived no longer exists, the audit determined. Originally, the academy integrated the arts into three subjects: English, social studies and science. Students participated in numerous field experiences, such as meeting with visiting artists.
But budget cutbacks have resulted in large class sizes; instructors teaching outside their area of expertise; and limited art supplies and other consumable materials.
• The Bartlett High School Science, Engineering and High Technology Academy "appears to be at a crossroads," the audit found.
Engineering has traditionally been the focus of the academy, but some students in the academy have a strong interest in the health services field. The academy needs to either expand its focus, or revise its mission statement to make clear that the academy might not jump-start a medical career.
• The Streamwood High School World Languages and International Studies Academy is "ready to expand with the addition of another major world language," the audit found. Currently, students can choose between Japanese and Spanish.
The program requires a new language lab, the audit found, and extra funding so that all students can participate in the capstone study abroad program.
The curriculum also should be reconsidered, the audit said, to determine whether all students should be required to take business.
• The previous audit of the district's gifted program found that the Gifted and Talented Academy at Elgin High School "provides students with a high level of challenge and depth in content."
To see the full audit, or previous audits, go to U-46.org.
• Emily Krone covers Elgin-area schools. She can be reached at 847-608-2722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.