Two new high school initiatives focus on student achievement

Sometimes during high school, students fall through the cracks — they forget to do assignments, fail tests for various reasons or just aren’t motivated enough to do their homework and get good grades.

At North Branch Area High School, two new intervention programs devised by school staff and administration are focusing on giving struggling students a chance to turn things around.

The first program is called “advisory.”

“If they didn’t learn it in the general classroom, we look at ways we can intervene on their behalf in order to ensure that they are getting the needed information and skills,” high school social studies teacher Matt Lattimore explained.

Advisory, new this year, takes place every Wednesday after third hour.

A total of 49 teachers are involved in advisory, and each individual teacher is paired with a group of 23 or 24 students during the advisory period. Students can use that time to make up homework, retake tests, ask questions of instructors or do other school-related work.

All students take part in advisory, regardless of if they’re struggling or not. However, starting this month, teachers will begin to identify students who need extra help.

Lattimore explained the interventions that will take place — focusing mainly on students who are below 70 percent in any of their classes — are three-tiered.

With the first tier, staff offer more help or perhaps the opportunity to retake a test.

During second tier of the intervention, staff offer even more help and try to get down to the root of why a student isn’t succeeding.

The third tier involves meetings with a problem-solving team composed of administration, counselors, general education teachers and school psychologists. If that last intervention isn’t producing results, then moving a student into special education is considered.

“It’s not an advance right through (to special education when a student is struggling),” Lattimore said. “There are multiple stages.”

Andy Spofford, high school social studies teacher, added, “We want to catch those who are falling through the cracks that didn’t have the opportunity to get those interventions that they needed.”

In addition to the advisory teachers who can offer help with class work, Lattimore noted the program has a focus on math, so four math instructors will be available during the advisory period to work with students on a one-to-six basis.

‘Ketchup time’

The “ketchup time” program, which has a focus on accountability, is centered on the lunch period.

This time allows students receiving below 70 percent in any of their classes time to “catch up” on their coursework, Spofford explained.

If a student is at or below that mark in any of their classes and if at least one of their teachers deem ketchup time might be helpful, instead of having lunch with their peers like they normally do, the student has a working lunch with a school staff member.

“That’s extra motivation to help students be more academically successful and accountable for what they need to do,” Spofford said.

Spofford noted the program might not be popular with some students because they’re missing lunchtime with their friends if they don’t get their class work done, but he’s actually had some students who have told him they appreciate the extra work time.

“I had one student who said, ‘It’s really calm and peaceful in there — I didn’t mind it,”’ he said.

Mixing and matching

The advisory and ketchup time programs were inspired by what other schools around the state have done to hold students more academically accountable.

“All of this has been put together from other data from other schools that have done it and done it well,” high school counselor Mari Ringness said. “A lot of research was done.”

Lattimore noted NBAPS staff and administration conducted site visits to schools that have similar programs.

“We mixed and matched,” he said. “We made (the ideas) our own.”

A team effort

Lattimore noted there were many more people involved in rolling out the programs than just him, Spofford and Ringness.

He said he wanted to thank other teachers who spent time working on the initiatives: Amy Carney, Haley Lang, Janelle McNally and Principal Coleman McDonough.

“Coleman led us through the process, but he also let us make it ours,” Lattimore said. “He allowed us to create it, and he led us through this.”


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