As we continue to see effects of the pandemic, it is constantly hitting close to home, especially as our counseling department is concluding our student audits. We are seeing students that are not completing virtual classes and getting further and further behind in credit. We have face to face students that have failed and are trying to recover credit without the academic support they might need. School after school, I hear the same story from other colleagues.
As a principal, I can’t help but feel responsible for our students. If these students continue on this path, it doesn't just affect them, it affects their family as well as our community. We are in a uncharted territory and are trying to figure out what to do about it seems to be a major topic of discussion.
We have also had discussions after discussion about what to do for these students and parents. How can we support them? How can we make sure they do the work? How many contacts does it take before they will attempt their work?
Research shows that blended environments work best for students that are virtual, but how can we set this up during the school year when some of our families are afraid to send their students to school? There seem to be so many barriers.
We have decided that these barriers are not going to stop us from getting creative and getting our students back on track. We have implemented several initiatives to better support our students and have done it without hiring additional staff. Our Academic Support Team (counselor, virtual administrator, virtual paraprofessional, and principal) have been brainstorming and troubleshooting in our weekly meetings. We are looking at every student's individual needs (face to face or virtual) and creating a plan to help them get back on track.
Some things that we have initiated are as follows:
- We have more core teachers supporting our students taking Edgenuity classes. This may sound simple, but we have specifically let those teachers know who the students are that are really struggling with a specific topic and to really focus on certain students that need the extra academic support or encouragement. We also let the specific students know to take advantage of the teacher's support. For example, we have a science teacher helping in our credit recovery, most of our students don’t know she can also teach math. We have reassured the students taking math credit recovery to utilize her support during the class. Although this is simple, it has proven to be meaningful to our students.
- We have invited our virtual students into the school building. We have a two-hour block in the afternoon each day for them to come to school. We have food to snack on and possible rewards for them if they reach their goals. We are reassuring parents of our safety protocols and we have families showing up for support!
- We have had one-on-one meetings with students going over their transcripts. Again, this is pretty common and simple. After these meetings, some students that felt unmotivated because they thought they would never catch up realized they are only a little behind and with proper support, they can catch up.
- Our paraprofessionals have a caseload of at-risk students similar to a Special Education teacher. They have time built into their schedule to meet with the students and do check-ins with them. They have a form they fill out after their meetings to track progress and plan for their next meeting.
Although none of these initiatives are the silver bullet, they have been making a difference for our students. I hope that some may be beneficial to your students as well. I’d love to hear what you are doing to help your students that are falling behind in credit. We are continuously meeting and implementing supports to help make a difference for our students, families, and community.
Written by Shawna Groulx, Principal at St. Charles Middle/High School and MASSP Board of Directors Representative