Monday, January 16, 2012

Grade Recovery Intervention Program

Creating a culture where failure is not allowed is certainly the first step.  Then programs must be put into place.  One size fits all approache rarely work.  In the Middle School portion of our 7-12 school, we use the Eagle Success Program when students don't do their homework.  This is held during lunch which is nice because such a large portion of our 7th and 8th graders are bus riders and many of our parents work out of town.  For our 9-12 grade students, we have the Grade Recovery Intervention Program (GRIP).  This program is designed for students who are struggling academically and are not completing homework. Individuals are assigned GRIP only if the student has a D or F.  They are also assigned a GRIP only when they are missing work.  Other programs are in place for students who have D's or F's but have completed all of their homework as these students are typically struggling more for an academic reason.  Not turning in work is a behavior and when that behavior creates a problem with grades, it is addressed.  GRIP is held after school from 3:35-4:15.  The teacher fills out a Google survey.  On that survey, it identifies the student, the assignment, the teacher assigning the GRIP, the students current grade, and any additional instructions that the GRIP coordinator needs to know.  This form takes less than one minute to fill out.  The simplicity of the form is important as teachers are very busy and as administrators, we want our teachers to use this program as needed.  The GRIP coordinator then looks at the Google spreadsheet at the end of the day.  Our GRIP coordinator is a para who comes to school 45 minutes late and stays 45 minutes after the school day.  The coordinator then assists the students in completing homework or supervises depending on the students needs.  At the conclusion of GRIP, the coordinator puts in comments to the google spreadsheet so that the teacher knows what gone finished during GRIP.  That spreadsheet is shared with the teacher so they can simply read the spreadsheet and see what got accomplished during GRIP.

GRIP is not one size fits all.  At times, we have made arrangements to serve GRIP to be in the morning.  This is only if the student doesn't need academic assistance as the coordinator will not be there to assist in at that time.  This is rare and only done for good reasons.  Additionally, as the semester comes to a conclusion, we assigned GRIP's to students who were struggling and had failed a test in which in appeared they had not studied.  The teacher and administrator worked together with the GRIP coordinator to make sure that the student studied during GRIP time and later did a re-take on the test.

It is important that the number one reason for putting a student in GRIP is a genuine concern for that student.  We want to see all students succeed.  At the same time, it is a consequence for the behavior of not turning in homework.  Therefore, this is a consequence for incomplete homework.  This consequence is greater for some students and more immediate than failing a class.  This year, we saw a significant decrease in the number of students failing courses.  At the conclusion of the first semester, we only had one student grades 9-12 fail one course.  This is down from an average of around 30 courses failed per semester.

To see examples of a GRIP form, you can look at the example in the Lunch ESP blog.  This form is very similar to that of the GRIP form.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Failure is not an option

We want all students to succeed.  As the title suggests, we want to create an environment where failure is not an option.  All teachers, counselors, support staff members, and administrators must be on the same page.  The goal is to keep high academic expectations and not allow students to fail.  Therefore, supports need to be put in place so that students can succeed.  Here are some of the changes we have made, mostly in the 2010-2011 school year and some at other times in the last 6 years:

  • Arlington adopted a Middle School philosophy in the 2010-2011 school year.
  • An interdisciplinary team was created with a common team plan time.
  • Student issues are discussed during team plan.
  • A “No Zero’s” policy was implemented in 2007.
  • Meaningful and valuable assessments
  • The Eagle Success Program (ESP) was developed in March of 2007.
  • Differentiation and individual plans for students
  • Living Above the Line is the new approach to discipline.
  • High expectations have been stated and students are constantly reminded of important dates.
  • High Ability Learner Program
  • Student Assistance Team
  • Math Lab
  • Reading/Writing Lab
  • Study Skills class
Each of these will be addressed in later blogs with the subtitle of "Failure is not an Option."

A full article on "Failure is not an Option" is available to members of Nebraska Association of Middle Level Educators (NAMLE) at .

Academic Labs-Failure is Not an Option

The creation of academic labs benefit our students by giving them an additional opportunity to learn in the core areas. In 2010-2011, we experimented with what we have called labs.  During periods 2-6, all 7th and 8th grade students have TA (homeroom), Math, English, Social Studies, and Science.  All 7th graders are in Math/Science and all 8th graders are in English/Social Studies at the same time.  Then we had Academic Labs followed by the other half of the core classes where 7th and 8th graders took the other 2 core classes.  These Academic labs were created for enrichment and remediation. Students would rotate through the academic labs with their homeroom classmates.

10-11 Labs (over 4 days, all students would go to each lab)
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Science
  • Math
In 11-12, we modified our labs.  Labs are now right after TA.  Students are assigned a guided study hall or a lab depending on their academic need.  The High Ability Learners have an afternoon class that is designed to push them academically.  The labs now focus on enrichment and all students are invited to come to these labs but some students are assigned the lab.  Focus on math, reading, and writing is because our belief is that these are fundamental skills that students need to master to have a better understanding in all classes.  Students not assigned to labs are put in a guided study hall. These students do take advantage of the labs as needed based on either teachers recommendation or their own desire to get better at a  certain skill.
11-12 Labs
  • Guided Study Hall 
  • Reading/Writing
  • Math
Our focus has been to make sure that we create an environment where all students will succeed.  These labs give students additional support.  In the last 2 years, we have had one student fail one course.  This would have been unheard of prior to the 2010-2011 school year.  This was one of many reforms we have made in our school but I believe it to be an important piece of the puzzle.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Eagle Success Program

I have presented the Living Above the Line approach to student behavior several times.  Each time, the questions end up being about our Eagles Success Program (ESP).  As you probably guessed, our mascot is the Eagles.  ESP was implemented to support teachers when we changed the Junior High to a no zero policy in the spring of 2007.  ESP is simply a program to support our philosophy.  However, without building a caring culture and a culture of all students will learn, this program will not have success.  This program is not meant to be punitive.

Here is a list of how our school implements Lunch ESP:

1. Students are required to complete homework
2. Students who are unable to complete homework will be assigned a Lunch ESP.
3. We use a google document survey that teachers fill out to assign ESP's (see below).  This document is simple and includes name of student, assignment, additional instructions, students current grade, and teacher assigning the ESP.
4. The student is told directly that they have an ESP.  We have found if you simply say anyone who didn't complete the assignment needs to serve an ESP, students don't show up.  Teachers must say "Billy, you have an ESP today" or have an area where they write it on the board and even then, reminders are still encouraged.
5. Students show up to the assigned classroom during lunch.
6. We have a para in charge of ESP.  Her job is to check the google spreadsheet (see below), go to the lunch room and get sack lunches for the students, go to the room and supervise/assist students, and let the office know if anyone didn't show.
7. The office calls the lunch supervisor if a student doesn't show up at ESP.  Now this is rare but in the beginning we regularly had to send kids down to the ESP room.  We figured out teachers had to be specific with students as stated in #4.
8. Students have lunch time to complete homework and eat lunch.  Students have enough time because our para has already gotten their lunch.  They don't have to stand in line which gives extra time to complete the homework.
9.  Students must stay in Lunch ESP the entire lunch for logistical reasons and because we don't want them to rush.
10. Students in afternoon classes can be assigned an ESP for the next day.  However, if they complete it prior to the next day and turn it in to the teacher by an agreed upon time, then the student will not have an ESP.  This is where the culture is important.  Teachers who want to use this as punishment for late work will not like this.  Remember, the goal is that the work gets completed, not to punish kids for not getting it in on time.

Google Documents

What the administrator and para in charge of ESP sees:

What teachers fill out:

Programs are simply programs.  Without the caring culture and a culture of all students will learn, this will simply be seen as a detention served at lunch.  That then builds a negative, punitive feeling.  In order to succeed, a strong culture must first be built and programs like this can then become powerful.