James Irwin Charter High School uses traditional, liberal arts college preparatory curricula emphasizing the great ideas of Western Civilization, and provides an academically rigorous program. We require 48 semester credits for graduation including core classes in English, mathematics, science, history and world languages. We offer advanced placement (AP) classes in English, history, math, science, art and computer science. Because studies have shown that the size of a school is a major factor in determining the academic achievement of students, we limit our enrollment to 425 students. Maximum class size is equally important, and we limit academic classes to 26 students.
The English curriculum at JICHS guides students in the mastery of critical reading and writing skills according to the Colorado Model Content Standards. Writing is based on MLA – Modern Language Association – style citation and Step-up to Writing/Six Trait Methods. The writing goals for the English curriculum include: organization, style, vocabulary, sentence structure, and conventions. Students read a minimum of five novels and one play a year.
An understanding of history, geography and economics is fundamental to becoming a responsible citizen. Students must study world history, as well as the history and government of the United States, in order to understand and evaluate their place in the world. Similarly, current world events may be understood through the perspective of the past. History explores the politics, passions and philosophies, and economic situations that move men. Students of history are able to take advantage of the accumulated human experiences of the ages, thereby gaining insight and judgments regarding past, current and future human experiences. Courses are taught in a carefully planned sequence, building upon previous knowledge so students will gain greater understanding of recurring historical themes.
JICHS’s educational philosophy embraces the concept that mathematics is an essential component to the development of an educated mind. The disciplined approach of mathematics is readily extended to all other areas, providing an essential element to many occupations and further schooling, especially in the sciences. The Saxon Publishers series is used in the math program. This series is based on the belief that students can master the concepts of math through daily practice. Each lesson contains only a few problems illustrating the concept introduced in that lesson. The remaining problems, which become increasingly more difficult as the year progresses, are a review of all previously presented concepts. Each lesson is thus a cumulative review, and the problems require that the students develop fluency in problem solving to successfully complete the lessons.
—The minimum requirement for graduation from JICHS is four years of sequential mathematics at the high school level (beginning in grade 9); the lowest course that will count toward graduation is Algebra I. This means that all JICHS graduates must, at the minimum, successfully pass Algebra I, Intermediate Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II. Some students may be required to complete additional courses to prepare them for the required math curriculum. Students who begin with Algebra II or a higher math level must still complete eight semesters.
Science and the scientific method are essential for understanding the world and our place in it. The high school science program is based upon the three “pillars” of science: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. These three courses are the basic foundation for all other scientific fields of study. Moreover, they form a continuity of understanding in which knowledge from one supports and extends the conceptual framework of the others. In addition to standard textbook coursework, studies in the science program will include laboratory work, data analysis, proof of basic laws and principles (analytically and/or experimentally), problem solving, and scientific reasoning. Awareness of the nature and limitations of science as well as its relationship to and dependence on other academic disciplines will be fostered.
Knowledge of at least one world language and its culture greatly expands students’ appreciation and understanding of the world in which we live. This knowledge also helps the students appreciate the English language and the American culture. Studying a world language enhances the development of vocabulary, spelling, reading, and comprehension of oral and written expression in the students’ own language and is essential in a world in which international trade and travel are a reality. The requirement of three consecutive levels of the same world language will allow the student to achieve proficiency in the chosen language. Proficiency in one language increases the ease with which other languages may be learned. Many colleges require world language for admission. Three successive levels of the same world language must be taken for graduation.
Character may be defined as that inner quality or strength which directs our personal moral compass and from which emerge our moral choices. Ethics might be understood as the deliberate and thoughtful process of assessing our moral values and of coming to moral decisions. Both can and indeed should be taught. At a time in our history, when we are confronted with so many different choices, value systems, examples of behavior, “hero” figures (and anti-heroes), and so much conflicting information, the deliberate and self-conscious study of what we hold to be good and of how we come to make our moral choices has become a vital skill, vital to both the individual and to our society. The JICHS character and ethics courses are patterned after the Center for Character Development at the United States Air Force Academy and organized around three divisions: honor, human relations, and character and ethics.
James Irwin Charter High School is a member of the National Honor Society and nominates students yearly to that prestigious group. Yearly, a ceremony attended by the entire student body inducts new members, and a twice-yearly award ceremony rewards academic and athletic progress. Additionally, an award for character is given yearly and is the highlight of our spring awards banquet.