SOL Academy helps students stay on track

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In a second-floor classroom at Lakeland High School on Wednesday, teacher Jennifer Phillips and a dozen or so students twisted paper cubes in their hands and talked about symbiotic relationships in animals.

Phillips explained the mutual benefits that result when a bee lands on a flower, pointing to examples on the cube as a teaching tool.

The calendar said July 12, and the heat index outside topped 100 degrees, so this sounds like summer school. But it’s not.

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Phillips is a teacher for SOL Academy, which is serving more than 300 students from all three Suffolk public high schools at Lakeland this summer. For three weeks, students who passed a course but did not pass the Standards of Learning test that went with it will receive additional instruction and the opportunity to re-take the test.

“I wanted to get another chance, before I go to the next grade, to pass my English test,” said Ayanan Davis, a 17-year-old rising senior at Lakeland. “It’s a smaller group, so I get more help.

Tyshaun Harris, also a rising senior at Lakeland, said he got a 391 on one of his math SOLs — nine points shy of a passing score. He hopes to get that out of the way before he starts his senior year.

He also likes that the additional instruction will help him retain what he learned last year over the summer.

“When I come back, I’m ready for the next school year,” he said.

Dr. Earling Hunter, an assistant principal at Lakeland, is the administrator for SOL Academy.

Any student who passed a course but not the associated SOL was eligible to sign up, but participation was not mandatory. Hunter said students who did not sign up can still take the test in the fall, but this allows them to get it out of the way.

“This gives students a chance to stay on track,” he said.

Students need to get a certain number of “verified credits” — earned when they pass a course and the SOL test — to graduate, in addition to meeting other requirements. Students aiming for a standard diploma need six verified credits, while those aiming for an advanced diploma need nine.

The program is different from summer school, also hosted at Lakeland this year, because students in summer school did not pass the class.

“It’s just an opportunity to get more instruction, regardless of the content,” Hunter said.