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New classes speed up learning

Bret Hartman/Vail DailyFifteen-year-old Charlie Tedston raises his hand Tuesday to answer a question during Compressed Biology class at Battle Mountain High Shcool in Eagle-Vail.
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EAGLE-VAIL – Susan Mackin Dolan of the Eagle County Gifted Education Team says she’s found the best local school for accelerated students.”If you want your kids to be challenged, Battle Mountain High school is the place for them to go,” she said.Beginning this year, the high school is taking a new tack on gifted education called compacted courses. The idea is that when kids arrive in high school, they will inevitablably spend a certain amount of time reviewing materials they have already learned. Some kids don’t need the review.

“The idea behind compacted courses is that we take a two-trimester class and compact the curriculum down to a single trimester,” said Principal Brian Hester. “The material is massively accelerated.”Battle Mountain High is offering two sections of compacted biology. The course is open to sophomores and the class numbers are testament to its popularity. One section has 38 students enrolled, one has 34.The first step in making the class work is “pre-assessment.” Kids have to have a certain level of base knowledge to be successful in the class, Hester said. “After we assess them, we can use what they don’t know as a build-upon,” Hester said.

The sciences are a natural environment for compacted classes because the course work is based on concepts rather than process, Hester said. “This concept wouldn’t work as well in a literature class where it takes a while to read a piece of literature and process it,” he said. In looking to the future for compacted classes, Battle Mountain High will offer compacted physical science for freshmen during second trimester. In the longer term, because students who have taken compacted classes will have more time in their schedules, they can enroll in more advanced placement offerings such as environmental science, biology and physics. The extra time in their schedules also will give them time to explore other opportunities such as on-line learning.Vail, Colorado



“Kids can customize their schedules so they can keep challenged,” Mackin Dolan said . For Hester, proof of compacted program’s potential came when one of his teachers described the behavior of one of her top students. “This is a kid that routinely pulled out another book during science because he already knew the material that the rest of the class was working on,” Hester said. “He wasn’t a problem or anything but he was disengaged and he wasn’t learning at his level. In compacted biology, he hasn’t had time to pull out another book yet.”


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