One of our greatest achievements at Molina High School is that we have been able to maintain a 90% or higher four-year graduation rate for the past seven years. However, it is quite challenging to improve that rate since approximately 30% of our student enrollment are English Language Learners (ELL), some of which are new to the country. Upon review of our current school data accountability reports obtained from Texas Education Agency (TEA), we noticed a considerable difference in the percentage of all students graduating from Molina High School as opposed to the percentage of ELL students graduating from Molina High School within four years. 92.1% of all students graduated from our campus in 2016, however, only 84.1% of ELL Students graduated after four years of high school. We decided to focus our attention and resources using a multi-tiered approach to close this educational gap. We thought that if we could help ensure that our students attended school and did not lose credits due to attendance, it would have positive effects on the social emotional and academic wellness of the student as well as our campus four-year graduation rate.
Our district truancy reduction plan requires that a warning letter goes out to each parent once the student reaches 95% attendance for the semester. If the student reaches 90% attendance for the semester, the student loses credit and must appear before the attendance committee and participate in a program to recover those credits – The Attendance Credit Recovery Plan. Based on campus and district best practices, our department decided to take a more active role in the process, particularly to provide additional supports to the ELL students. Tier one universal strategies on our campus include automated call outs and other mass notification methods, but we decided to have more intensive individual conferences with the students and parents that are ELL in collaboration with the administrators and to change the focus and intent of the meeting, not making it punitive in nature. Instead of the focus being on truancy and remediation, we made it a postsecondary educational planning session that included goal setting to reinforce the implementation of coping skills when faced with a problem. We believe that identifying long- and short-term academic, career, and social/emotional goals strengthens the student’s motivation to do well in school and attend more often. We used the same strategy to encourage those parents to attend Senior Parent Night featuring our College Access Partners to provide hands on expertise with FAFSA and other higher education barriers. While they were there, we reinforced the attendance policy and follow through in the Attendance Credit Recovery Plan.
As part of the Attendance Credit Recovery Plan, the students were required to balance school, home, and community activities to attend before or after school sessions reinforcing course content in those classes that they had lost credit to earn their credit back. Once the 12th grade students completed their content course work, they were given the opportunity to demonstrate social maturity and encouraged to research colleges and careers. A member of our counseling team helped coordinate and supervise the program to answer questions or help with the transition process to postsecondary education, as needed.
We were pleased that our overall graduation rate for ELL students improved from 84.1% to 87.5% over the past year. This year we plan to enhance our plan by being more intentional and use more research-based strategies such as coordinating and collaborating in planning for language and content teaching and learning in those specific content areas that the students are experiencing a loss of credit due to attendance. Outcome data indicates that the interventions we used were effective and should be continued as needed, but we believe that we could get better results if we started earlier in the year and if we implemented more strategic prevention activities. For example, we are planning to have the individual conferences before the loss of the credit and involving representatives from the campus Language Proficiency Acquisition Committee (LPAC) to help us increase face to face contact time with ELL students earlier in the process, and eliminate all possible communication barriers in their wraparound support system.