Brian Sack, principal •
Sanborn Regional High School • Kingston, New Hampshire
The Journey of a Freshman Learning Community
The transition to ninth grade is challenging for many students. For Sanborn Regional High School students, their transition struggles pointed to several issues in the district.
In 2008, the district convened a summit to consider research on the needs of these students and to review the best practices in teaming. The ninth grade teachers decided to focus on a Professional Learning Community model framed by teachers from English, Social Studies, Wellness, and Science. Over the next three years, the team worked to develop team norms, goals, common grading practices for class work and homework, grading policies, integrated units, performance-based assessments, and communication to parents.
In the fall of 2011 under the direction of Assistant Principal Ann Hadwen, the team that had come to be known as the Freshman Learning Community (FLC) took their next big step in development. Working within the master schedule, the FLC created a school-within-a-school model where freshman could be together with their team that had come to include English, social studies, science, mathematics, technology information literacy, world languages, and wellness. The team created an instructional time within the schedule to provide students with a re-teach and enrichment period to intervene and support students and monitor progress. This allowed the team to better focus their work on addressing the four major questions of PLCs that address student learning, which had become the primary focus of their weekly team meetings.
Looking back over the last three years of this PLC journey, the school is proud of the commitment that the FLC teachers have made to the PLC philosophy. Early data shows that course failures have dropped dramatically in courses that are associated with the team. Moreover, student achievement on common school-wide and district-level assessments have increased.
In addition, in April of 2012, the FLC at Sanborn Regional High School was honored by the National School Board Association and the American School Journal by receiving a Magna Award for innovation and excellence. The team looks forward to continuing its journey as a PLC. They are convinced that it has truly made an impact on student learning for all.