OFC rebrands itself through new ACE program


An ACE student flies through the air on a bonding trip that orients students to the new program and faculty.

Rosa Stern Pait, Editor-in-Chief

Imagine a class where the lowest possible grade was a C-plus, each person moved at their own pace and the class size was under 10 students, all of whom were involved in a tight-knit community.

Classes like this exist at the high school and they are available to all students in the new Alternative Choices in Education (ACE) program. According to ACE English teacher Julia Slesarchik, the high school created ACE to replace the Opportunity for Change (OFC) program, which existed up through the 2014-2015 school year. OFC was an alternative education program designed for students who had been struggling in school. However, ACE is open to any student.

“ACE is inhabiting the same space as OFC but it’s a completely different program in the way it’s set up,” Slesarchik said.

ACE uses the model of competency-based education. According to Slesarchik, the program places students in classes based on their skill level, not their grade.

Senior Aileen Oliva, who spent a year in OFC and is now in ACE, said students must complete certain “benchmarks” for each class within six weeks. If they do not show that they are competent at the skills these benchmarks require, they redo assignments until they achieve competency.

According to Slesarchik, ACE classes are just as, and sometimes more, rigorous than mainstream ones. Instead of a senior paper, students complete a project called Capstone which includes the same 10 page paper as mainstream students but with an aspect of community involvement. They have more freedom to choose what they wish to do their project on.

“I think it will end up appealing to a wide range of students, especially students who are typically underchallenged in classes because you could set the level you want to put into it,” Slesarchik said. “You could go above and beyond if you want. There’s plenty of room to get creative.”

Senior Joseph MacNamara, who was in OFC for a year and a half and is now in ACE, said he is still getting used to the benchmark system.

“You can show that you know everything by completing all the benchmarks, but if you don’t do the final assessment you don’t get a grade,” MacNamara said.

ACE Program Coordinator Amy Bayer said that OFC consulted parents, teachers, administrators and students about what they felt needed to change about OFC during the early stages of developing the ACE program.

“There were a number of concerns that were raised, and the most concerning one is that students did not necessarily feel that they were getting the proper preparation for college,” Bayer said.

According to Merida, detention played a large part in OFC and has been deemphasized in ACE because it was not helping students to become motivated academically.

“Lots of kids in OFC weren’t able to graduate, had trouble coming in or felt like it was a relaxed program and started slipping,” Merida said.

Senior Jose Merida, who spent two years in OFC before joining ACE, said that when Bayer first began working on changing the program, he and a group of other OFC students worked with her to come up with a new name for the program.

Bayer said that one of the goals was to reduce the stereotypes around OFC.

“If you ask former OFC students about [the stigma associated with the program], the words that they come up with are pretty painful,” Bayer said.

Oliva said that the ACE program has been very beneficial for her, and will continue to be when she starts a new chapter in her life.

“It helped me because I’m a senior and it gives me more responsibility, so when I go off to college it opens my eyes more,” Oliva said. “This is how college is going to be. I’m going to be independent; I have to be responsible for my work.”

Merida said that he sees increased motivation in other students.

“Now, kids who usually just went for a D are striving to at least get a competent,” Merida said. “This is pushing them to do something and improve themselves more and more.”