REVISED - Closing the Gap
In the 2015-16 school year the counseling department started to look at data as it related to students who did not earn 6 course credits by the end of their 9th grade year. At Red River High School, 6 credits would indicate that you have completed your 9th grade year and would be considered a 10th grader. It was determined that many of the students who didn’t earn 6 credits in the 9th grade significantly increased their chances of dropping-out of high school. As a result of this evaluation it was determined that we wanted to set a closing-the-gap goal for the 2016-17 school year that would attempt to directly impact these at-risk students.
We started tracking 10th grade students who earned less than six credits their freshman year. We identified these students individually by checking credits earned after 9th grade and began to intervene and address academic issues. This gap was important to address because graduation is the ultimate goal we have for each student. Not earning six credits during their freshman year puts these students at risk for dropping out.
In choosing our interventions, we were guided by the John Hopkins Urban Health Institute on “Best Practices for Effective Schools”. The interventions we used varied depending on a student’s individual needs. Examples of activities and interventions used with identified students included: collaboration with teachers, administration and parents, grade checks, tutoring and individual counseling sessions. Furthermore, we emphasized the importance of school connectedness by matching adult mentors with the identified students. Students who required more intense interventions may have been placed in a support class, “School Within a School”, or an alternative educational setting. If there was a need for additional social/emotional support, a referral was made to community resources.
Our newly created “School Within a School” is intended for students who take online classes needed for credit recovery. We advocated for additional “seats” in our online classes and found the addition of this “School Within a School” program to be one of the most promising changes we’ve made at Red River to help our struggling students.
Outcome data revealed that 21 9th grade students during 2015-16 earned less than 6 credits (an average of 4.59 credits each). Seventeen of those 21 students completed 10th grade at Red River High School. These students earned an average of 5.56 additional credits during their 10th grade year. This represents an increase of nearly 1 credit per student. Additionally, 9 of the 17 students earned 6 credits or more during their 10th grade year.
The data results helped us identify the need to consider having a more structured, uniform plan of interventions for these students. At times it seemed as though we would lose sight of these students momentarily and the work that had been done would quickly disintegrate. The purpose of choosing this goal was to intentionally connect with these students early and often to provide them time to adjust and still be able to recover credits and graduate with their cohort. In the future, we may consider working with these students in a small group with a specific curriculum targeting the mindsets and behaviors identified as most important for these students.
We also found social/emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety, and family stressors to be a huge barrier to academic success. We recognized that it was most important to address these issues first. We are hopeful that by addressing these barriers, students would then achieve academic success.
We worked hard to make sure these students were connected to at least one adult at Red River High School. All but one of these students said they had one or more adults to whom they were connected. However, sometimes we recognized the best intervention was actually a change in setting. This process sometimes took a period of time as students cannot transfer to our alternative high school until they are 16 years old.
When collecting data, we met individually with each student. We asked a mix of open-ended and likert scale questions. If we were to use this survey again, however, we learned that it might be more effective to replace some open ended questions with check boxes in an effort to more readily quantify data. We would also provide an option for them to add their own answers as well. We would want to collect this data earlier so we better understand the barriers the students are facing at the start of the school.