On November 18, 2022 at Lincoln South Rotary Club we heard from Dr. James Blake of Lincoln Public Schools on the Focus Programs for Lincoln Public Schools.
Dr. Blake started his presentation with the answer to "why" - why does the Lincoln Public School system believe in the Focus Program concept?
The drive is based on the impact of the program.

There are currently over 2,000 students enrolled in the focus programs. Compared to the general program but with similar students in similar schools, focus programs have:
- - Higher Graduation Rate
- - Higher GPA (are teachers easier on them?)
- - Higher ACT totally about the student (so the teacher impact is taken out)
Students are choosing to be there. They are able to complete college credits at a much lower price than when taken at a college. There are a limited number of seats available in each of the programs. There may not be a formal process to select students - they are not just selecting honors students - it is generally just based on interest.
He shared the answer to "What are focus programs"? 

Answer: High school learning environments that are focused around an academic passion that serves as the central context for learning.  They are community-based and community connected.  They fulfill their original mission adopted in 1995, to do high school differently.  
Per Dr. Blake, the focus programs are exploding!
The first focus program was the Zoo School. It started with a couple portable buildings. They have since built a $3million facility funded by LPS and the Zoo. That was a Science focus program. 
In 1998 there was a program added focused on Arts and Humanities. There was a slow increase in additional program. In 2001 they added an Info / Tech Program and in 2005 the Entrepreneurship Program was added. Then next programs added were International Baccalaureate and then Air Force JrROTC.
With the opening of the Career Academy there were over a dozen focus opportunities added including Engineering, Early Childhood Education, Criminal Justice, Residential Construction and many more.
The newest programs are Early College and Career Stem, Bryan College, Bay High (for young creators) and Nebraska Business (at the new Standing Bear School).
It is obvious that the community believes in the focus program. Bay High is financed totally by community businesses to encourage young developers and creators and encouraging them to develop their careers in Lincoln.
Dr. Blake shared that it is exciting to see the programs but also to see how the schools and other facilities are adapting their spaces to accommodate the best learning environments.
He asked us to share the information - make sure students know their options. See more at https://home.lps.org/focus/.

James Blake is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Focus Programs for Lincoln Public Schools. 

Dr. Blake was previously the K-12 Science Curriculum Specialist for LPS, state science supervisor for Nebraska, and past president of the National Science Education Leadership Association. 

His areas of expertise include working with community partners to develop new focus programs and supporting existing focus programs: Early College and Career Focus Program, Bryan College of Health Science Focus Program, Nebraska Business at Standing Bear Focus Program; and supporting Science, Bay High, and Arts and Humanities focus programs as principal.