Using Your Best to Help the Rest: Another Thought on Intervention
The driving force of a culture focused on student learning is addressing four questions:
- What do we want students to learn?
- How will we know when they have learned it?
- What will we do when they do not learn it?
- What do we do when they already know it?
The growth of our students at Lakeridge Junior High has been exciting to watch over the years. We have committed to increasing the capacity of adults through the processes associated with being a professional learning community (see our entry in Evidence of Effectiveness). It has also been exciting to be able to turn more of our attention from addressing the needs of those who are not learning to those who are learning and helping them prepare for being admitted to college.
In working through the PLC process, Lakeridge has had success helping students who are at risk of not learning by soliciting the leadership and capabilities of students who already know it. In turn, we have been able to build the college resumes of students who already know it by giving them a chance to get leadership credit by helping students who are at risk of not learning.
I would like to give a few examples of combining our efforts in addressing the question of what we do for students who are not learning and what we do for students who already know it, with two goals in mind:
- Ensuring those students who are not learning at grade level, learn at grade level
- Building up the college resumes of those students who are already learning
Success and Leadership
Each of our incoming seventh-grade students is signed up for a course we call success and leadership. Six outstanding ninth-graders are put in each course and assigned five seventh-graders. Each ninth-grader is a mentor for the seventh-graders in an effort to help them be successful academically, socially, and emotionally in junior high school. Since implementing this intervention using our best students, seventh-grade failure has decreased by 24 percent.
Latinos in Action
As we improved our ability to meet the needs of our Hispanic population, it became a goal to give them experiences that prepared them for college. Leadership opportunities for Hispanic students were limited. Conversations about these students and students achieving below grade level guided us to implement Latinos in Action. Latinos in Action is a leadership/service class. In this class, students are taught how to teach elementary students to read. Students are bussed three times a week to our feeder elementary schools to read with Hispanic students. They act as mentors and have become role models for these students. Since implementation of this intervention, the Hispanic students pass rate on the end-of-level English test has increased from 64 percent to 81 percent. Also, gang-related discipline incidents have decreased from 52 to zero. Most exciting is we are preparing a generation of Hispanic students for college by giving them the same high school credit as a student involved with student government.
One of the greater challenges we have experienced in our efforts to get all students to learn at high levels has been what I have heard Mike Mattos call our intentional nonlearners. These include students who do not attend school, refuse to work if they are in school, or in general do not engage in the education process.
This past year, 31 students in our school who were going into their ninth-grade year were identified as at risk for failure to graduate from high school. Each student had failed three or more classes as an eighth-grader, and we knew that if we did not intervene, graduation would not be a reality for them.
These 31 students were placed in one of three graduation success courses (with a class size of 10). One of our school counselors was responsible for each course. With each of the courses, two of the students at risk were selected as class leaders. Their job, in cooperation with the counselors, was to not let any student fail. It was amazing to watch these student leaders turn their attention to their fellow students. By the end of their ninth-grade year, 28 of the 31 students were on track to graduate from high school.
Each of these interventions and extensions have come about through collaborative conversations focused on student learning. The results have been incredible for those who struggle to learn and those who are our best. By allowing students to lead other students, we not only ensure the learning of those students who struggle to learn, but also help build leadership capacity and a sense of service in our best students.