The PRHS Counseling Department Closing the Gap goal is “By the end of the 2015-2016 school year 75% of the target group will be back on track with their cohort (either promoted to 10th grade or graduate on time).” This goal was identified in part because of the correlation to two of the department goals for the 2015-16 school year (Goal 1. By focusing on various academic interventions, we will promote 97% of first time ninth graders to tenth grade by the end of summer school 2016 for a retention rate of 3% or less. Goal 2: 90% of students that are identified as 11th grade repeaters (11R; 2012-13 cohort members) at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year will graduate by July 2016.) Each of these goals represents a portion of the Closing the Gap target group. The Closing the Gap goal also supports the PRHS school-wide goal of increasing the graduation rate by 3%.
The gap was identified after the PRHS graduation rate remained stagnant in recent years, which prompted a school-wide focus on increasing graduation rate. Also, we know that 9th grade success greatly impacts high school graduation rate as stated in educational research for the last 15 years. For example, in 1991 Willet and Singer said that “the ninth grade year is important because student success at this juncture has been linked to high school completion rates.”
For both 9th and 11th graders, the interventions centered around meeting the individual needs of students, collaboration with all stakeholders, including parents and teachers, and constant progress monitoring. Interventions that were implemented include: parent/teacher conferences, individual meetings with students, identifying academic support opportunities for each student, discussing a plan to recover credits, peer mentoring (9th grade), and small group participation (11th grade). These interventions were chosen because they allow for individualized academic planning for each student in the target group. Including all stakeholders as a part of the solution was also an important factor. We have found that when parents and teachers were included in this process there was more by-in and communication between parties, which better enabled student success. Also, peer mentoring was used with the 9th grade students in the target group because peer mentoring is proven to elicit positive results. According to Garringer and MacRae (2008), “Cross-age peer mentoring programs have tremendous potential to facilitate the personal, social, and academic growth of both mentors and mentees.”
While our outcome was not what we had hoped, we do plan to continue these goals next year. In order to increase effectiveness, we plan to work more closely with the Curriculum Office at PRHS to coordinate Credit Recovery opportunities. If we were able to expand the PRHS Credit Recovery program then more students would be able to make up courses in a cost-effective and timely way, which would enable them to get back on track. Also, we found that it is necessary to expand the stakeholders who are involved in our process. Many of the students in our target group received ESOL or Special Education services, so it is necessary to involve special education case managers and community translators in order to better support the communication process with parents. In addition, there are two new things happening for the 2016-17 school year: 1. All advisement teachers were trained to complete credit checks for their advisement students, which will provide another layer of support for students as they stay informed of their graduation status. This also supports the school-wide initiative of increasing the graduation rate. 2. Another counselor was added to the 9th grade academy, which will enable even more hands-on counselor/student interaction for our 9th grade students.