Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2008

New program for LHS freshmen showing early signs of success

January 24, 2008

With the first semester under their belt, school administrators and faculty of Lansing High School are already touting the success of a new program designed to smooth the transition for freshman class students.

Steve Dike, LHS principal, said the school was putting together numbers to present to the school board during its February meeting, but was confident they would show an improvement in grades among the first-year high school students.

"It's been a big success," Dike said of what he's personally observed over the semester. "But will the numbers back that up? I hope."

LHS officials first approached the school board in February 2007 about starting a program that would help create firmer foundations for freshmen as they made the big leap into high school. At that time, they cited that, on average, 42 percent of the freshman class scored a D or F. While Dike is confident that number will be reduced, he said he couldn't comment on any concrete numbers at this time.

However, he said there were several factors about the program that have shown and immediate change for the positive.

"I have seen teachers with more collaboration or a more common vision," Dike said. "What we're trying to do is to teach the whole student and address individual needs with a much more consistent learning environment."

By establishing two hallways that were specifically for freshmen and organizing the four basic courses everyone takes so they include only freshmen, Dike said students seem to be handling the transition better. From getting to classes earlier to knowing there is a standard set of rules to follow in every class, freshmen are easing into a lifestyle far different than middle school.

Dike said teachers are working on creating joint projects for the entire freshman class that includes aspects of each core subject. Giving teachers the opportunity to work closely together has allowed them to reach out to more struggling students, he said.

One aspect of the program especially useful was the creation of an eighth-hour tutoring program for the students who have failed to turn in homework. Dike said it was a bit of a challenge making sure the students who were required to stay for eighth hour had a ride home, it's been worth it in the end.

Chris Hoverson, a freshmen algebra II teacher, said she agrees the after-school tutoring has given her students an added sense of accountability.

"I think that it's definitely an improvement," she said, "It's an improvement in grades and it's an improvement in things like tardies, getting to class on time and classroom disruptions."

Hoverson said the after-school program shows the students they can't miss turning in assignments without seeing consequences and gives them the opportunity to make up credits they would have otherwise missed. In fact, she uses the rule for all of her classes, including the upperclassmen.

She's also found that streamlining rules from one classroom to the next, such as if gum chewing is allowed, has cut down on student confusion adding to less disturbances during important class time.

"There's so much you have to adjust to in high school already so when you can take seven classroom procedures and get them into one, that's six less things they have to remember," she said.

One of the biggest concerns Dike heard when the program was first starting, was about the effects of isolating the freshmen from the other LHS students. Dike said the concern ended up not being a problem because students still had classes such as band and choir where they can mingle and meet upperclassmen.

The purpose was only to help the students with problems, such as making sure teachers are giving students quick support when needed and giving them a clear path to follow with standard expectations and goals.

As of now, Dike said it was too early to start tweaking or changing aspects of the program. At the end of the year, teachers and officials will sit down and discuss how they think the year went and the merit of keeping the program alive.

"Nothings been decided," Dike said. "It's a growing district with lots of variables, but as of right now our intent is to keep up something that will address the transition piece for freshmen."

The board will hear from Dike and other LHS teachers about the transition program at its meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 in the music room of Lansing Middle School.

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