The concept of Talent Development rests largely on two pillars. One is a special ninth-grade “academy” that focuses extra attention on freshmen, who are at the highest risk of dropping out. Once students make it to 10th grade, the odds are strong that they will graduate.
The other pillar involves a different way of scheduling classes. Known as the “four-by-four block schedule,” it breaks the school year into quarters, and the school day into four 90-minute classes. The idea is to make each course more intensive, collapsing a semester’s work into 10 weeks. It also gives students the opportunity to take more courses over a school year — 16, compared with 12 in a typical schedule. If a student flunks a class, there are more opportunities to make it up.
John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley adopted the four-by-four schedule in 2004, along with other aspects of the Talent Development program. Last June, 92% of its ninth-graders had enough credits to move up to 10th grade, about one-third more than the previous year.