Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PLC: Systemic Response to a Learning Emergency

In many high schools, this week is Interim Week, the week where students and parents are informed about student progress halfway through the grading period.

At Dublin Jerome High School, a National Model Professional Learning Community at Work School and National Blue Ribbon School, not only do we communicate student progress, we act on it.

Do you carefully monitor student progress regularly?  We do-- at the middle and end of four quarterly grading periods per year.  More importantly, do you act on the D's and F's that individual students receive?  For us, it is a learning emergency.  And emergencies need immediate attention.

Here are the series of steps that we take as a Professional Learning Community to provide mandated intervention for students who need additional academic support to be successful:

1. We run a D and F report by grade level, by individual student and by individual teacher.  This allows for data analysis for academic trends as well as identifying individual academic concerns. Both the grade level data and individual student data is provided to every staff member.

2, Teachers submit grades electronically and then determine which students with D's or F's receive a Gold Card ( named after one of our school colors). A Gold Card outlines mandated intervention procedures for students.  Teachers meet with each of their Gold Card students and explain the procedures, which include a student getting 8 signatures that verify the extra academic support the student seeks and receives.  The responsibility then lies with the student. The teacher issuing the card is the first signature and the last signature, signifying it is complete within 4.5 weeks.  Students who receive a Gold Card but seek no assistance meet with an administrator and receive school discipline for insubordination.

3. Teachers send the names, grade level, subject and letter grade to a guidance secretary.  Guidance Counselors, with case loads by alphabet, individually meet with every Gold Card student and also initial the card, ensuring students understand how to get academic intervention according to our pyramid of interventions. Counselors also inform students with a Gold Card of a loss of privileges.

4. Students who receive a Gold Card are  subject to a loss of privileges.  For examples, seniors with early release or late arrival forfeit that privilege with a Gold Card for at least 4.5 weeks.  A section of study hall is built by our registrar so that the period 1 and period 7 study halls account for these new study hall students with attendance.

5. Students with Gold Cards must make arrangements either with their teachers before or after school or during planning time or lunch, or with academic content lab duty teachers to get extra academic intervention with the goal of achieving learning goals, including raising their grades to all A's, B's and C's.

In addition, students with all A's. B's and C's at Interim receive a sticker on their ID every interim and end of the grading period denoting that they have earned special privileges such as being able to leave study hall and go to a number of specially designated comfortable seating areas around the building.

Student success drives every decision we make and a D or F signals a learning emergency that necessitates a systemic response by a number of staff members.  Intervention by invitation doesn't work.  How do you respond when a student is not learning?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Want more student involvement? Try student leadership

As educators we all know that research states that student involvement increases the likelihood of student success and achievement.  If you are a principal as I am,  you have probably spent time communicating to your staff, your parents, and more importantly, your students, about the importance of becoming involved and staying involved in extracurricular activities.

Why? Because students can list it on their resumes for college applications? Hardly. We know that we want students to become involved in clubs or organizations because students can practice forming strong relationships with other students and adults, develop important organizational and leadership skills, and yes, become better people,  And isn't that our larger goal?  If we develop academic success data but fail to create better people who can change other lives is that really an education?  No.

As Aristotle said, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."

But having principals or teachers make announcements encouraging students to "become involved" is largely ineffective.  We can encourage, but student voice and encouragement is much more powerful.  We have found this out through trial and error and many other tries at encouraging student involvement, most of which were barely effective at best.

That is why today was another amazing day at Dublin Jerome.  Why?  Because our student leaders organized a Club Fair attended by hundreds of students during all three of our lunch periods.

Students at the Club Fair can even try out their skills, such as taking on other students in Chess Club.

These student leaders are our Celtic Advisory Program (CAP) mentors, part of our freshman transition program leaders, who first notify teachers via their advisers' school email the date and location of the Club Fair.

As part of the email, they sent out a template for the adviser to pass along to their club or organization's officers or student leaders.  The template serves as a model for a half-page handout each organization distributes at the club fair to interested students.  It lists the club name, adviser, basic purpose of the club, meeting information etc.

Advertised to all parents and students through social media, enewsletters and announcements, the Club Fair is open to every students during his/her lunch period.  Students leaders also make announcements in the cafeteria during all three lunches.  Although the CAP mentors specifically work with freshmen in freshman advisory periods, all students can enter the gym which is completely rimmed by tables and various club displays manned by enthusiastic student leaders.

Smiles abound as students pore over club and organization exhibits. 

Official clubs and unofficial interest clubs have sign-up sheets and exhort students using baked goods, interactive displays, and candy to sign up for their clubs.  Good-natured competition and fun embody the Club Fair culture and climate, with smiles all around.

Students leading students, students helping students.  And in doing so, student grow into better people,  And in the end, that is really what education is really about.