Our closing the gap goal was derived from our desire to achieve our vision. Research shows that students who fall behind in ninth grade are more at risk for dropping out. Due to our unique configuration with the ninth grade students, it takes extra concentrated efforts to ensure they are supported and understand the importance of staying on track for graduation. Although we had a goal to decrease the number of students deficient in credits through our core curriculum, we felt it was crucial to work with struggling students more intensely to achieve this goal.
We began by creating a list of students based on previous school achievement data and cumulative records. We analyzed the list identifying reasons the students may be failing such as truancy, behavioral issues, learning concerns, social/personal barriers, etc. We thought this would be our small group goal for the year, but as we looked at each student, we felt a more personalized approach would better meet each student’s needs. For students with persona/social concerns, we referred to Project Excel. This is staffed by an outside agency that provides individual counseling to students at school. For students we felt attendance was the primary concern, we referred to our Truancy Intervention Program which holds informal truancy hearings with the student, parent, administration, counselor, and community partners at the school. At the hearing, a plan is created and a contract is signed between the family and school to commit to the plan agreed upon (B:SS 3). Students with behavioral issues that seemed to inhibit classroom success, we set up with a teacher mentor to build a positive relationship between the student and an adult (B:SS 3). Many students we worried may have a learning issue that impacted their ability to be successful; a MTSS plan or referral to our Student Success Team was done for these students. Some were referred for a special education or 504 evaluation (B:SMS 6). Small group counseling was offered to several students as an intervention.
Our plan was to involve each at-risk student with some sort of appropriate intervention, based on the mindsets and behaviors, and use all the resources we had available to help support their academic success. We knew this would take time. Because of this we looked at their first semester grades and wanted to help each student who was already deficient increase the number of credits earned by 50% by the end of 2nd semester. Many students from our list were not deficient after first semester grades and were not a part of our results. Several students (10) were able to increase the number of credits earned by 50% for the school year. Moving forward, we feel this was a worthwhile initiative to continue.
In order to continue success in the future, we will make several changes based on our collected data. As indicated on our perception survey chart, before working with the students, none were aware of the credits they were missing for graduation and after 25% of students indicated that they were unsure which credits they were missing for graduation. Also before working with students, 50% were aware of the credits needed for graduation and after 75% were aware of needed courses. In the future, after 1st semester we will have students adjust their 4-year plan to include courses to recover credits. We can also do this for 2nd semester courses at progress report time. Students can make a plan for recovering any courses they are at risk for failing. Then students will have clearer visual of their progress. Another missing piece in our plan was working with students who enroll late in the year. Many of these students come to our school deficient and after we had worked with students on creating academic plans. Many times, we have no information on their grades and history until we realize they are failing in their class with us. We would like to establish a process for making sure we have records on students in a more timely manner and making plans to support these students more intentionally from the start. Finally, district-wide we would like to initiate a cohesive practice of identifying at risk students and moving information on successful interventions tried between buildings. Research says that building transitions can be difficult for students. They would definitely benefit both the student and our staff in better supporting at-risk students.