Thursday, May 1, 2014

Freshmen Transition Program for Struggling Students

Today I want to share with you what we do at Hoover High School to provide time and support at school for freshmen who struggle with school. 

Last spring, I talked to the two counselors that would be working with this year's freshmen, and I talked to one of our teachers who was experienced in working with at-risk students, Lori Elgin. 

I shared with them my idea of how we could provide a sort-of "guided study hall" for our at-risk freshmen during their lunch/advisory period. They all agreed that we should give it a try, and it has been a huge success this year. 

Here's what we did to start our STEP class (Student Transition Empowerment Program.)
Informational flyer here:

How did we choose our first group that would start the 2013-2014 school year in STEP?
Last spring, I asked the two middle school principals to identify their 10 most at-risk incoming freshmen at each of their schools. We did not put any qualifiers on them at the time. We asked for students that they thought were at risk of failing, not transitioning well, etc. The students they identified made up our first group for the first nine weeks. The counselors met with each student and their parent(s) about the class, and we had terrific buy-in. 

When would we provide extra time and support to at-risk students?
Our freshmen have an extended 4th period, where the first half is lunch/advisory and the second half is fourth period class. The students in STEP go to the lunchroom and get their lunch, take it to Coach Elgin's room and eat there, and then they have her for advisory (STEP class). 

How do students transition out of STEP?
At the end of the nine weeks, if students' grades are good/better, then they can come out of STEP (getting to eat lunch in the cafeteria again - which is a big deal for freshmen - and going to their regular advisory class.) There are some students whose grades were better, but Coach Elgin thought that the students should stay with her. 

How do students qualify for STEP?
Each nine weeks after the first, the counselors, Coach Elgin and I review the failure report for the freshmen class. All freshmen with 3 or more Fs are placed in STEP. (This does NOT include students who qualify for special education.) Students remain in STEP for the nine week grading period. 

Here's a look into what Coach Elgin does for the students in STEP:
"I have developed a Daily Performance Record sheet that I keep for each student in the STEP Program.  When I take attendance I ask the student what they are going to work on that day and write it on the sheet. 
I also do grade checks 2-4 days a week that I write down on the sheet along with how many missing assignments the student has for each subject.  I have one-on-one conferences with the students at least once a week and we talk about grades, assignments and the possibility of Saturday School. 
I contact the students teacher(s) if there is a specific need to do so and about going to Saturday School. 
I contact their parent about both good and bad progress when I feel it is necessary.  I call parents for sure when I plan on sending them to Saturday School and at that time I talk at length about why the student is failing and any other concerns that I may have."
**Note: At our school, teachers assign Saturday School for students who have missing work. Students are required to stay at Saturday School until the work is complete or the end of Saturday School, whichever comes first. 

Do students have anything to look forward to during the nine weeks?
Coach Elgin, the teacher for STEP, creates rewards for the students. For example, students can "earn" time in the lunchroom. If their grades come up and they are doing their work consistently, Coach Elgin will allow them to eat in the lunchroom then come to her room for advisory.

Mentor Program for students in STEP:
Debbie Grant (one of our freshmen counselors) is married to an officer in the Air National Guard. She arranged for members of the Guard to mentor our students in the STEP class.

Approximately once per quarter, Dr. Grant has arranged for the mentors to come to the school where the students and mentors meet in the library during their STEP class and they are able to meet and talk. 

Since STEP is scheduled during students' lunch/ advisory, it doesn't take up a class period, and we are able to move kids in and out as needed.

At the following link, you can see the informational flyer we use for STEP: 

As the first semester was ending in December, the counselors, Coach Elgin, and I met as a team and defined characteristics of our freshmen students who are at-risk of failing in the ninth grade at Hoover High School:

  • Lack of organization skills
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Busy but not productive
  • Need someone to "stand over them" to get them to work
  • Avoidance of work
  • Low academic performance
  • Rarely turn in work; don't complete assignments
  • Don't check grades regularly
  • Inconsistent effort with completing work

Now that we are near the end of the school year, I will share this list with the principals of the two middle schools that feed into our high school. They will be able to use the list to narrow down their "Top 10" list.

We are always looking for new ideas and ways to improve what we are doing to help students be successful. If you have a successful freshmen transition or support program, we would love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. I just emailed Coach Elgin to see if she will share the Daily Performance Record sheet. This is the power of an online PLN.