The San Diego Unified school board is poised to approve a new school specifically for students who failed eighth grade classes. Called the Star Academy, the program will be housed at Mann Middle School and serve about 120 students who were held back for failing eighth grade classes that they didn’t correct during summer school.

The academy was conceived earlier this year, when the school board weighed the best way to help failing eighth graders. But one trustee is worried that by isolating Star as its own school, San Diego Unified could alienate kids who feel stigmatized by attending the program.

“There shouldn’t be a big glaring Star Academy sign over it,” said Shelia Jackson, who added that she preferred that the school be located at a high school, instead of a middle school, to expose students to college-minded peers.

Establishing Star as a separate school, rather than a program, could also set the school on a collision course with the federal No Child Left Behind act, which requires schools to make academic progress every year, or be forced to restructure. What restructuring means, however, is largely up to the school. A school composed entirely of struggling students would naturally face difficulties meeting the law’s standards. (Similar problems have deviled ALBA, a San Diego Unified school that serves students who are expelled.)

Trustees will vote on whether to approve the school today.


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