Marlene Bicondova •
Curtis Middle School • San Bernardino, California
Curtis Middle School
At Curtis Middle School, we are currently in the planning stages of answering question 3 of a Professional Learning Community; What do we do when student don't learn?
After facing the brutal facts about our test scores and grade reports, teachers at our school were asked to consider the following scenario and questions: After the first three weeks of school, twenty of your 200 students are receiving F grades. How does the school currently respond? What are the consequences the students have to face for not completing work?
We learned that until now, it has been up to teachers and teams alone to try to figure out what to do with these failing students. After much reflection we decided that we needed a systematic school-wide plan that goes beyond the regular reading and math support classes offered on our site.
In response to this challenge, we created the Curtis Safety Net, a unique intervention plan designed to make learning mandatory. The basic idea, based on Rick Dufour's intervention model developed at Adlai Stevenson High School is to identify a manageable group of about 100 students who are receiving the most failing grades in the school and place them in the Curtis Safety Net.
Students start out in the lowest tier and must meet specific criteria in 3 week cycles to earn their way out of the Safety Net. During each three week increment, students who fail are moved up in tiers that require increasing mandatory interventions and the reduction of school-wide privileges. For example, within the first tier of the system, students are required to complete all assignments, turn in weekly progress reports, and attend mandatory lunchtime tutoring. If these requirements are not met in 3 weeks, students are moved to tier II. Some of the ideas for tier II include: counselor meetings, mentors, lunchtime tutoring, and mandatory after school tutoring two days a week with the loss of team privileges. Once students improve their grades and progress, he or she works his way out of the Safety Net which reduces the required mandatory interventions, and increases the privileges he or she lost. Once the most serious academic concerns move out of the net, students at the next level of need will be filtered in. As our program specialist who was involved in the initial planning states it, "The big idea is for kids to be held accountable for their learning and to ultimately accept that learning is not an option."
To assist with the intense monitoring of these students, a full time "Net Keeper" will be trained to continuously track the progress of the students by collecting progress reports, communicating with teachers and parents, gathering the data charts, and moving students in and out of the Safety Net. The Net Keeper also has the responsibility of physically moving the students' names up and down a large wall replica of our Safety Net so students can visually see their current placement on the net.
Consistent with any challenge given to a true Professional Learning Community, we realize that creating our Curtis Safety Net will require a continuous cycle of inquiry: planning, implementing, studying results, and making necessary adjustments. One of our Science teachers, Lynn Neighbours also involved in the planning of our Safety Net stated, "As teachers we value our students and we're willing to put in the effort and time."
Additionally, as we begin to work on this unique style of intervention, we will take the advice of the PLC experts and continue to work on good teaching practices and further developing our school culture.
"Finally, no system of intervention will ever compensate for bad teaching. A school that focuses exclusively on responding to students who are having difficulty without also developing the capacity of every administrator and teacher to become more effective will fail to become a Professional Learning Community." Dufour Whatever It Takes.