Understanding that retention is often a predictor of student dropout rates, BBMS counselors analyzed the previous year’s data. In 2014-2015, out of 21 students were retained, 17 were in 7th grade. In 2013-2014, 16 out of 21 students were retained at the 7th grade level. Therefore, we identified 7th grade students to target from our semester D/F report, gathered community volunteers, and scheduled transportation using available school funds to create an intervention to close the gap for these students.
Counselors monitor the D/F report each interim and end of each marking period. An in-depth analysis was completed for the 7th grade students consistently on this list. These students were unable to successfully complete homework, study for assessments and/or complete long term projects, which negatively impacted their grades. Many of these students come from single parent homes, have parents with multiple jobs or who are unemployed, or have other environmental stressors (such as homelessness) which affect routine and support for academics. In most cases, these students could not acquire transportation home if they stayed after school for help from their teacher. Hence, we cross-referenced where they lived to who needed the most academic support and offered transportation after school. We created “Bear Repair,” which offered them the time, space, accountability from an adult, and materials to help them complete their academic work.
We proposed the program to our principal, and she graciously gave us the funds (a total of $8000) to pay for the busses for nine week period. Collaboration with the 7th grade teachers and our stakeholders was an integral part of the success of these students. An effort to reach out to our teachers and local faith partners was made to help us staff the program. On average we had 3-4 adults each day providing support to our 21 participating students. The adults were not used as tutors, but were mentors to hold students accountable and provide support when the work was challenging.
Students worked from 3:15-4:15 Monday through Thursday beginning in February for nine weeks total. We offered back up activities if students did not have any work (Vocab.com, silent reading, Interactive Achievement for math practice). Students worked individually or in small groups (2-3). A small portion of students did not take this opportunity seriously and their behavior impacted the efficacy of the entire group. After discussion and reflection, they were removed from the program, but continued to received alternative inventions.
The results from this program were significantly met. 30 students in danger of retention were identified and 21 consistently attended the Bear Repair program. Of those 21 students, 95% of students improved 1 or more core class grades and 67% of students improved a grade of F to a passing grade of D. Teachers reported they had students who had never turned in worked or passed a test, finally finding success in their classes. Students reported they were proud and could not wait to inform the counselors of their academic successes. Some students have even asked to be in the program again and did not want it to end. At the conclusion of the 2015-2016 school year, only 5 students were retained, 3 of which were in 7th grade.
Looking ahead we would like to continue the program. We applied for a grant that may have awarded up to $5000, but unfortunately were not awarded the funds. Extraordinarily, our principal is in support of funding the program again. We anticipate Bear Repair can effectively support approximately 50 students. Therefore, the following changes will be made in the next school year: involving students across all grades, who have poor attendance, Ds and Fs in two or more core classes, and environmental stressors. In addition, a contract will be used to state clear expectations for the program, as well as increasing teacher and community support.