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 North County Academy Raises Academic Bar

The milestones continue for North County Academy, the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) school for children facing significant behavioral or emotional challenges.

The school in Carlsbad has been approved to establish a University of California-certified "a-g" course list.

"We've been working on this for years," Principal Jamie Dayhoff said. "We've been providing these college-prep classes anyway; we just didn't have the designation."

This accomplishment follows on the heels of North County Academy graduating 19 students in June, its largest graduating class, and earning a six-year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges last year.

Most of North County Academy's students are in high school, making the a-g course list establishment significant. These courses are deemed college preparatory -- meeting rigor and content guidelines -- for admission to UC and California State University schools. For a course to be certified as "a-g," a detailed syllabus must be submitted to UC for approval. North County Academy now has an A-G Course Management Portal with the UC Office of the President.

These college-prep courses classified as "a-g" cover history and social studies; English; math; laboratory science; foreign language; visual and performing arts; and electives.

"One of our core values is providing students with a strong academic preparation," Dayhoff said. "We want to provide good educational programming for our students as well as strong mental health support."

Dayhoff said the North County Academy team works hard to help students return to their schools of residence, and having "a-g" approved courses on their transcripts is an important step. This will allow them to transition back without any lapse in their academic coursework.

David Reese, a North County Academy education specialist, said the "a-g" course list gives students more opportunities after graduation, including the possibility of attending a four-year university.

"It also helps strengthen our academic rigor across the campus by giving the teachers a blueprint and a strong scope and sequence in order to help make our students college- and career-ready," Reese said.

North County Academy serves more than a dozen school districts in the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education. SDCOE partners with the San Diego Center for Children, which provides the therapeutic services to students at the school. North County Academy opened in 2012, and enrollment has more than doubled since. It now serves more than 130 children from kindergarten through high school.

"Our students, there's a perception that they're not going to be able to reach the same standards as other students," Dayhoff said. "They're totally entitled to a good education while they're here. We're here to help make sure they receive those supports."