Cardinal Academy envisions a world where pregnant and parenting students up to the age of 21 are empowered to complete their high school education in a caring learning community, further their education and career paths, and become self-sustaining and contributing members of their community and local economy.
Cardinal Academy will operate with three guiding principles:
- Pregnant and parenting students should have the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and relevant educational experience that they have participated in creating and that prepares them for a prosperous future.
- Pregnant and parenting students need basic essential support in order for learning to occur.
- Pregnant and parenting students will benefit from a values-driven school culture that empowers them to be life-long learners who are engaged in civic pursuits and contribute to their community.
Pregnant and parenting students should have the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and relevant educational experience that they have participated in creating and that prepares them for a prosperous future.
Cardinal Academy will take a comprehensive approach of educating the whole person by providing students with a rigorous and relevant educational experience and providing on-campus wrap-around services necessary to support pregnant and parenting students staying in school. This will enable students to continue to pursue the completion of a high school education through graduation and beyond. In collaboration with an academic/career counselor, students will develop and “own” their educational future by mapping personal educational goals and plans. Students’ academic growth will be monitored using the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), Renaissance Learning Star Math and Reading assessments, content based formative, informal, and summative assessment.
Upon enrollment, the academic/career counselor will meet with the student to develop an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP). Together, the counselor and student will:
- Examine, consider, and develop student’s pursuits, career interests and aptitudes;
- Discuss transcripts and any standardized test scores, such as the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISATs), Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT), or American College Testing (ACT);
- Upon enrollment each student will take the Renaissance Star math and reading assessments to determine an entry baseline;
- Map out short-term and long-term goals; and,
- Develop a learning plan, including specific courses, internships, and apprenticeships.
Throughout their tenure at Cardinal Academy, students will continue to work with the academic/career counselor to:
- Enroll in TRiO to explore career choices, and the education, years of course study required, and funding needed to attain those careers;
- Work on financial aid to complete post-secondary goals; and,
- Monitor progress of goals and academic achievement that will lead to goal attainment.
Individualized Learning Plans will be distributed and discussed among the teachers in order for meaningful, relevant lesson development through the use of Layered Curriculum (See Layered Curriculum under Instructional Model). Cardinal Academy will provide students with content that is rigorous, learner-centered, connected to their self-created ILP, and integrated with skills to prepare them for the workplace, university or college. Layered Curriculum unit lessons are created to scaffold, individualize, and differentiate learning. Each layer builds on students’ learning and moves from acquiring knowledge, to transfer of knowledge by applying and demonstrating what students have learned.
Pregnant and parenting students need basic essential support in order for learning to occur.
Young students that become pregnant need specialized support to develop skills and earn credentials critical to their success as adults and as parents. Providing essential support during this critical time can help to avoid a life of poverty and dependence on public or charitable assistance. Cardinal Academy’s educational plan leverages years of experience working with this at-risk population with a customized program meeting the complex individual needs of each student. Our philosophy centers around building a stable foundation where a student can continue to learn, develop a growth mindset, and take control of their future.
Pregnant and parenting teens need a safe learning environment free of prejudice. Many young women who become pregnant have already had one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and trauma in their life (Hillis, et al, 2014). Becoming pregnant at an early age is just one more. The prejudice faced by pregnant and parenting students presents a great educational barrier (NWLC, 2011).
Cardinal Academy’s founding staff members, Emily Bergstrom and Deborah Hedden-Nicely, have more than 30 combined years of experience working with pregnant and parenting teens. As long-time staff members at the former Booth Marian Pritchett School (BMPS) in Boise, Emily and Deborah have learned that most students chose to attend BMPS to escape the stigma associated with being pregnant, or being a young parent, in a traditional high school.
Teen parents are often judged harshly by their peers and sometimes by adults who do not understand their situation. This contributes to the high dropout rate for young parents. Louree Ortiz, BMPS 2020 graduate said, “I was scared and alone when I found out at 15 years old that I was pregnant. So many people called me names and I lost my ‘friends.’ I tried to hide my pregnancy for so long, but people finally started staring. I went to a private school and all I got was whispers to the point I wasn’t going to school. I dropped out and my whole family was disappointed. I just cried everyday not knowing what to do. I then found out about this teen mom school. I felt so welcomed and all of the teen moms were so excited to talk to me and tell me their stories.”
When the Boise School District closed the Booth Marian Pritchett School in May of 2020, they intended for any pregnant and parenting students to attend the alternative high school. Another student at BMPS, who will be a sophomore next year, said she did not want to attend Frank Church High School because “…the kids there are troubled and I wouldn’t feel safe and I would not be happy going there. They say it’s not a school for troubled kids, but that is exactly what it is. I’m trying to better my life, not make it worse.” She adds that she transferred from a West Ada high school because “being pregnant around a bunch of immature teens does not make the social aspect part of school good.”
According to a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation survey (2011), pregnant and parenting students expressed that they would have stayed in school if their school provided necessary services and “demanded more of them”. Many pregnant and parenting students are considered low academic achievers; and perhaps, on paper, it appears that way. Cardinal Academy, like the Booth Marian Pritchett School before it, will be a place where students can achieve great heights academically while participating in a learning community filled with inquiry, curiosity, and inspiration, when given assistance with basic needs.
Students will be continuously moving forward to meet individual achievement goals in order to reach post-secondary education or career potential. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights publication, Supporting Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students (June 2013), Title IX does not require school districts, their high schools or their alternative high schools, to establish programs designed to support teen parents, such as on-campus pre- and post-natal classes, child development and life skills classes or provide child care or early learning opportunities for students’ child(ren), or provide physical and mental health, WIC and Head Start appointments. However, Title IX does protect a pregnant or parenting student from being asked to leave their regular or alternative school due to her pregnancy. But pregnant and parenting students are still left to struggle with attending to the needs of being pregnant or managing a baby by themselves, leaving no time or energy for academics.
Pregnant and parenting teens need a stable and consistent environment. When a young student becomes pregnant their life can seem to spiral out of control and many lose hope and drop out of school, condemning themselves to a life of poverty and dependence on public and charitable assistance. Teen mothers have lower levels of socioeconomic attainment than their childless peers: they are less likely to complete high school, attend college, or earn a bachelor’s degree, and they tend to earn less and are more likely to experience poverty (Diaz and Fiel 2016). Further, children of teenage mothers exhibit lower cognitive and noncognitive skills and are more likely to become parents as teenagers themselves (Diaz and Fiel, 2016). Single mothers without a high school diploma are almost five times more likely to live in poverty and depend on public assistance than a single mother with a bachelor’s degree (IWPR, 2015). According to the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, 50 percent of pregnant teens dropout of school and do not complete their high school education. Less than 2 percent go on to higher education. Cardinal Academy will be a safe, caring community where vulnerable students will receive comprehensive wrap-around social, mental, medical, and child care services on campus by trusted staff members. Providing these services will support students in focusing on their academics to move them toward proficiency, and onto their college and career goals.
Pregnant and parenting students will benefit from a values-driven school culture that empowers them to be life-long learners who are engaged in civic pursuits and contribute to their community.
Cardinal Academy’s core values were established to embed the following elements into the school community. The core values will be practiced by all students, faculty, staff, and collaborators of the school, throughout the campus and in our daily interactions.