About Freshmen On Track

Almost one third of our nation’s students drop out of high school  (Barton, 2005) , and students that are at risk of doing so begin to show signs early in their education ( Jessica B. Heppen and Susan Bowles Therriault,2006) . According to recent research, 9 th grade may be the last chance that we have as educators to step in and intervene. Studies show that "students are three to five times more likely to fail freshman year than any other grade”, and the impact of that on their future success is staggering  (February 2011 Research Brief: Challenges of the Ninth Grade Transition, 2011) . According to the Consortium on Chicago School Research, students with a “B” average at the end of their 9 th grade year have a 95% chance of graduating on time. Students with a “C” average at the end of their 9 th grade year have a 72% chance of graduating and if a freshman ends their first year with a “D” average, they have less than a 28% chance of four year graduation (Allensworth, E. and

Peotone High School and Freshmen Transitions

On January 19th, I had the opportunity to speak to Jason Spang, Principal of Peotone High School. Peotone recently finished the 2021-2022 school year with 96.5% of their Freshmen ending the year on track for a four year graduation. Peotone High School is one that does a lot with the resources they have available in order to make sure all of their students are successful. One part of that system includes them adopting a 20 minute advisory period in the middle of the day titled "Blue Devil Support" or "BDS".  Every teacher in the building has a roster of up to 14 students and special education teachers have a roster comprised of students on their caseload. During this time, students are expected to check in with their BDS teacher and are then encouraged to seek support from teachers in courses they are struggling in.  As an additional study time for Freshmen in need of extra support, Peotone offers an elective course called " Freshmen Transition " that is a

Rockford Public Schools and the reFRESH Program

On January 9th, I had the opportunity to visit with Morgan Gallagher, the Chief of Schools at RPS 205, to discuss the work they are doing to keep Freshmen on track. In addition to a dedicated staff, the efforts outlined below has them at a 3% increase over where they were this time of year last year. Rockford utilizes a Freshmen Academy  model in order to ease the transition from middle school to high school and has been creative over the years on ways to onboard students to make sure they start off their first year of high school with the skills they need to be successful. Most recently, they developed a program called reFRESH  that provides 8th graders with the opportunity to take some summer classes before Freshmen year. In the reFRESH program, students are given extra instruction in math and English in order to close any skill gaps and to give them a jump start on their coursework. Students in this program are invited in by staff  that utilizes data collected throughout 8th grade.

Galena High School and the Freshmen Draft

This Friday's conversation was with Galena High School in Galena, Illinois who  has a 95.9% Freshmen on-track rate for a class of 78 Freshmen. Making sure students feel supported is a priority in Galena and they like to bring the small town feel into their building. Galena's system includes five components that has helped them be successful. First, Galena on-boards Freshmen as early as second semester of 8th grade . They host an incoming Freshmen Orientation in December followed by one on one parent meetings with the counseling department in January. Not only do students and parents start thinking about this transition, but 8th grade teachers and counselors begin talking to their 9th grade counterparts in the spring, as well. Teachers at Galena High School have consistent grading practices and retake policies . There is a firm belief that in order for students to be successful, they need to make sure they are completing the work assigned and taking advantage of additional oppor

Mahomet-Seymour High School and Advisory Periods

This Wednesday's conversation was with Mahomet-Seymour in Mahomet, Illinois who has a 90.2% Freshmen on-track rate for a class of 274 Freshmen. This has been an on-going school improvement goal for them and there are four parts to their system that are pointing them in the direction of success. First, they have a RtI team that meets every two weeks in order to discuss the grades and attendance of all of their Freshmen. They have a solution oriented approach that involves them getting on the same page about student performance and contacting families when needed. Mahomet has a "Homework Hangout" available to all students that need a little extra support and this extra time after school is often utilized for students with missing assignments and/or those that need skill-building support. This coupled with credit recovery for additional skill building and getting students ready to attend classes with their peers   has all Freshmen going on to Sophomore year with the confid

Pontiac High School's Freshmen Learning Community

On Friday, December 9th, I had the opportunity to visit Pontiac District 90 in Pontiac, Illinois to talk to them about their 95.6% Freshmen On Track rate for a class of 187 Students.  Freshmen on Track has been such a priority for Pontiac for the last decade that they have changed the layout of their building to support Freshmen success. That along with three other components have led their school to be one that is high performing on this metric.  The first of those, is the Freshmen Learning Community that is at the heart of Pontiac HS. The FLC is made up of two English teachers, two global studies teachers, two math teachers and two science teachers that work together to provide consistent skill building and supports for all Freshmen. Both English teachers are teaching the same skills and content at the same time, allowing flexibility of student schedules as the year progresses. The same happens in the other three FLC departments.  This consistency in instruction happens in part with

Oregon High School and Hawks Take Flight

Here at Oregon High School, we have developed a program called Hawks Take Flight (HTF) which is an intervention program for students that need extra support or have circumstances outside of school that interferes with success freshman year. Freshman team teachers volunteer to mentor 3-4 students and meet with them weekly on an individual basis to discuss grades, teach organizational skills, offer homework help and serve as a strong role model for these freshmen. Furthermore, HTF students are required to attend an after school homework cafĂ© every Thursday with all of the HTF teachers and they are enrolled in an advisory period during the school day that is facilitated by one of our team members. The vision and goal for HTF is to ensure all HTF students remain on track for on time graduation. Students for this program are identified and on-boarded the summer BEFORE their Freshmen year. We do that by utilizing an  Early Warning System that allows us to examine every 8th grader's per