Knapp principal: Motivation key to test success


Steve Basnight, the principal of J. P. Knapp Early College High School in Currituck, beams with pride as he walks past students on the first day of school at Knapp, Thursday, Aug. 17.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, September 9, 2017

CURRITUCK — Steve Basnight says if one trait is characteristic of J.P. Knapp Early College High School students, it’s motivation.

The school has earned an “A” grade under the state’s accountability standards for three years in a row.

But Basnight, the school’s principal, said the school achieves and maintains that rating without selecting its student body based on test scores. After students accept invitations to enroll at the early college, the staff takes a close look at who has opted to come to the school.

“Typically it’s the ones who are more motivated — not necessarily higher performing academically,” Basnight said.

Basnight said the school is very conscious that it was designed to meet students from specific demographics. For that reason, 80 percent of J.P. Knapp students are first-time college-goers in their families, low-income, minorities, English-language learners, or at-risk of not graduating from high school. Basnight said that demographic profile is based on a study conducted by the Gates Foundation to look at who was not going to college.

“What we are doing is taking kids that traditionally would not have an opportunity to be in a situation where they would actually graduate and go to college and we are getting them two-year college degrees in many cases by the time they graduate,” Basnight said.

Because students take college courses while they are enrolled at the early college high school, there are substantial savings available to their families on college costs.

Basnight told the Currituck Board of Education at its regular meeting Thursday night that the school had saved the parents of the most recent graduating class a total of $336,448 in tuition and textbook costs for the college courses the graduates completed while attending high school.

The state pays the costs of college courses that are taken by students at early college high schools. Students at other high schools also are eligible for the state-paid college courses through the Career and College Promise program.

The enrollment at Knapp has grown significantly since it opened in 2008 with 83 students. At the same time, the percentage of students graduating with either a two-year college degree or a career diploma or certification such as a welding certificate has also grown substantially.

Over its first four years of operation J.P. Knapp Early College grew to 229 students in the 2011-12 school year. After enrollment dipped slightly to 202 students in 2012-13 it increased by more than 200 students to its current enrollment of 306.

Basnight’s first year as principal at the school was 2013-14.

The school’s first graduating class was in 2013 and four students graduated with a degree, which was 10 percent of the class. The next year 10 students earned degrees, which was 21 percent of that class.

The percentage rose to 40 percent in 2015 as 16 students earned degrees, and it rose to 65 percent in 2016, with 26 students earning degrees. The percentage remained at 65 percent for this year’s graduating class, as 31 students earned degrees.

Basnight said two factors had contributed to the current plateau at 65 percent: Enrollment increased dramatically in the 2014-15 school year and the previously available “core 44” recognition is no longer offered to students who complete 44 credit hours of college work. Most associate degrees at College of The Albemarle require 60-65 credit hours to complete, Basnight noted.

Now students are earning full associate degrees, career diplomas or certifications, he said.

Basnight said the early college is not just for those students who earn associate degrees but also for those who become career-ready by earning a welding certificate or other career readiness certification.

“We’re trying to reach all of them,” Basnight said.

What sets the school apart, according to Basnight, is careful attention to what each individual student needs.

“It’s a lot of work,” Basnight said.

But he added the staff at the school is up to the challenge. “Our teachers are very good at what they do,” Basnight said.