Northridge Academy High School opened on Sept. 9, 2004 as a partnership between CSUN and the Los Angeles Unified School District with a curriculum that was designed by the CSUN NAHS Planning Committee in an effort to spearhead a new model of secondary education.
Collaboration between CSUN and NAHS began when the initiative “Teachers for a New Era” was introduced in July 2001 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to improve the quality of teacher education.
CSUN received a $5 million grant as one of 10 institutions of higher education selected to participate in the program.
Dr. Naomi Bishop, Assistant Project Director of TNE, said the project will continue through 2006 and 2007 by way of “carry-over funds” and will eventually transition into “normal university activities” of which TNE has set the foundation for.
Northridge Academy was designated as a clinical site for TNE and the research conducted at the high school is organized by a planning committee “composed of about a dozen CSUN faculty from across campus and different colleges,” said Bonnie Ericson, CSUN Liaison to NAHS and chair of the planning committee. The committee has been meeting monthly to “help facilitate activities linking CSUN and NAHS students within the high school’s curriculum,” she said.
Northridge Academy initially had a student body of 600 ninth and tenth grade students but now has a peak of 956 of ninth through twelfth grade students, according to the school’s attendance office.
NAHS Principal Connie Semf said she considers her high school a “small learning academy” because it offers three thematic learning academies that are based on three of the eight major colleges at CSUN. They include Health and Human Development, Arts, Media and Communication, and Leadership and Learning.
Ninth graders are given the option of exploring the academies so by the time they enter tenth grade they are prepared to choose one of the areas of study that will coincide with their basic education for the remainder of their time at NAHS. Semf says this model of secondary education facilitates student interest in what they are learning.
Students who attend NAHS are from Local District 1 of L.A. Unified. Sixty percent come from Monroe High School, 23 percent come from Cleveland High School, and 20 percent come from Granada Hills Charter High School, according to Semf.
CSUN students who are part of the Single Subject Credential Program can experience Northridge Academy first-hand through the student-teacher program that is partly funded by the TNE grant.
Student-teachers assigned to Northridge Academy will serve for two semesters. In the first semester student-teachers observe the master-teacher and then gradually take over the class while the master-teacher observes. In their second semester they will switch to a junior high school if they have already taught at a high school, or they will switch to a high school if they have already taught at a junior high school.
“The CSUN credential program does a really good job preparing these candidates,” said Sandra DaLie, NAHS CSUN Student Teacher and Observer Facilitator. “Between the classes they take and the experiences they had in their first semester, they do a really fine job.”
Stephanie Fitch, who is part of the CSUN graduate credential program, drives from West Los Angeles three days a week to teach American literature to a classroom of 16 NAHS students.
“The first day I taught I was ? nervous,” she said. “I was talking very fast and I worried whether I would have enough to do.”
Fitch said her biggest fear was not being taken seriously as an authority figure by the students and having to dole out discipline if students resisted her, but she said she felt relieved when she realized her students were well behaved.
Fitch said the faculty has made her feel welcome. “It’s a pretty open and accepting environment. There is not the whole entrenched politics going on,” she said.