In just 10 years, the Fulton Science Academy Middle School (FSA) has gone from being one of Fulton County’s top middle schools to receiving national recognition for its student achievement.
The Alpharetta charter school was recently named one of only seven schools in Georgia designated as 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. The award is given annually to schools where students achieve at very high levels, or for making significant progress in closing the achievement gap. FSA was honored under the academic achievement criteria.
In addition to FSA, other Blue Ribbon schools in Georgia for 2011 include Big Creek Elementary (Forsyth County), Calhoun High (Calhoun City Schools), Mount Yonah Elementary (White), Peachtree City Elementary (Fayette), Shirley Hills Elementary (Houston), Timber Ridge Elementary (Cobb) and Trion Elementary (Trion City).
FSA Principal Kenan Sener attributes the school’s success over the past decade to a combination of personal attention, high expectations and a team approach to education.
“Our school’s academic success is the result of our commitment to continuous improvement and the personal attention we give to our students and their families,” said Sener. “Our success is the product of this team effort.”
He noted the school has received numerous awards over the years, but the Blue Ribbon designation was special in that it broke new ground for start-up charter schools in Georgia.
“I was truly honored for FSA to be recognized as the first charter school in Georgia to ever receive the national Blue Ribbon Award,” said Sener. “We feel especially proud to receive this news in our 10th year as we break ground on our new school building.”
FSA was founded 10 years ago on the premise of a curriculum steeped in math and science. Since first opening its doors, the county’s first charter middle school attracted students and parents drawn to the rigorous curriculum and small class sizes.
Unlike many charter schools that struggle to attract students, FSA was at full enrollment within three years of opening. The school currently has a waiting list of more than 450 students.
Sener said there are a number of elements of FSA that provide a different middle school experience than in the traditional setting.
“To begin with, we are a smaller school with only 510 students [and] we have a lower teacher to student ratio in our classrooms,” said Sener. “We work hard to foster a family-centered atmosphere, and our teachers and administrators take part in weekly ‘home visits’ where we visit students and their families in their home environment.”
Notably, the investigations/connected math concept that faced strong resistance, and ultimate demise, in the traditional schools, is the curriculum at FSA. However, more time is allotted for math at FSA than in traditional schools, which is one factor for the success of the program.
Four years ago, the high school component of FSA (the Fulton Science Academy High School) opened, and last year the elementary school (Sunshine Academy) opened. While the three schools have separate governing boards and charters, they do provide students a kindergarten through high school path with aligned curriculum options.
“In looking at the bigger picture, some ideas are only possible if they are done K through 12, such as college preparation,” said Sener. “College preparation is not only the job of high schools. It should actually start in the elementary years. Having three sister schools working on the same goal together, we are hopeful that we will be able to help our students to enroll in their college of choice.”
Representatives from FSA will join other national Blue Ribbon winners at an awards ceremony on Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.
Click to see a list of previous Blue Ribbon schools from Fulton County.