Palmer High October
First Quarter is on the Horizon
October for Alaskan is a month of transition. The beautiful fall colors that incase our outdoor backdrop will slowly fall to the ground, and we all know the inevitable; a blanket of white that will last for the next seven months. After that, our world will transform from vibrant fall colors to brown to a black and white frozen setting. Time to gear up and hunker down for the long haul of winter.
October also brings a transition to the high school setting. We will wrap up our first quarter in the next two weeks. The first quarter grading period determines eligibility for sports and activities. It marks the halfway point of the semester and provides strong indicators of how students are doing in school.
I have been an educator in the MSBSD for twenty-five years. I have never been more concerned about our failure rates. Currently, we have more than fifty percent of our students that are failing one or more classes. We have more than 170 out of 751 students that are failing three or more classes.
These trends are primarily with our freshman and sophomores, but our juniors and seniors are also not void of the problem. We are working hard to address these concerns, and with all school-related topics getting support from parents/guardians is a crucial variable to student's success in school.
Transitions are always tough. I feel like the transition from fall to winter in October is our toughest as Alaskans. It gets colder and darker with the long winter looming ahead. The transition from summer to the new school year is challenging for students. The transition from middle school to high school is even more challenging. The transition from being an at-home learner to being a full-time student in high school is proving to be very tough for many of our students. Coupled with navigating through a pandemic, it creates the perfect storm that feels overwhelming to so many students right now.
I spoke to a student about these struggles and these difficult transitions. This young lady offered some very introspective feedback. She stated to me, "Honestly, Mr. Reid, the last year and half of school has been easy. I was an at-home learner last year, and I could wake up when I wanted and do my school work when I wanted. I'm not used to assignments that keep coming in with multiple classes. Deadlines and work is not something I'm used to anymore."
I appreciated the honesty and reflective thoughts she offered. It provided the insight and realization that many of our students are learning to be students again. We will continue to approach these challenges with our school's vision leading the way. We will continue to let students know we care about them and believe in their ability to learn. We care about their futures!
Strategies To Improve Student Achievement
To address the high failure rates we are initiating several approaches in hopes of improving student achievement.
For starters, the district has developed an Early Warning Systems (EWS) in the Synergy grade book. The EWS is a new tool in Synergy that will identify students facing academic and behavioral challenges. We are taking this data and identifying students in higher need of interventions, and we will begin by calling home this next week. Palmer High Administration will be making phone calls home with specific feedback to address the roots of the problem. We will begin with the students failing three or more classes.
Utilizing the 4 C's timeframe in school is ideal for students to catch up, make up, or stay ahead of their school work. Many students make terrific use of these daily minutes to get all their work done, so they have no homework when they leave for the day. They love this opportunity to keep up or even get ahead by taking an additional online class. This time is intended to serve all students' needs to go to the teachers they need to see for make-up work or the one-on-one opportunity with the instructor for better clarity.
One of the primary causes of low student achievement is high absenteeism, so this time has proven to be valuable. Another root cause of poor grades is a lack of follow-through with completing and turning in assignments. However, there are some basic skills of being a good student with a good work ethic to complete tasks that can quickly solve many students' problems. This is where parent and guardian support is needed to monitor and encourage student engagement in school work. If you havent already I encourage you to download the ParentVUE app on your handheld devices. Call 761-HELP for assistance if needed.
This coming Friday will be a day dedicated to completing missing work or make-up tests and quizzes. Every class is different in make-up and structure, so the teachers will be the experts in determining if the class moves forward with the curriculum or if there is a greater need to address missing work and late work. It will be a day dedicated to schoolwide efforts to address missing work before the end of the first quarter.