OAKFIELD — Twenty students sat Saturday in the Oakfield-Alabama school library getting tutored.
None of them needed to be there.
The extra study session was part of the district’s Student Support System which started in the 2021-2022 school year. The program is receiving praise for its approach to fostering student success.
Students had logged 106 failed courses during the 2017-2018 school year, followed by 77 in the 2018-19 school year; 59 in the 2019-2020; and 116 in 2020-21. However, there were only 23 failed courses in the 2021-2022 school year — an 80 percent improvement.
This was similar if not better for each marking period across the board. And the district had a 100 percent graduation rate last year as well.
The improvements are gaining notice — the Genesee Valley School Board Association gave the Student Support System its 2023 Excellence in Student Services award during a January ceremony.
How did the program come about?
O-A High School Principal Matt Peterson said in his first year the school had a shared decision making team which included teachers, students, administrators and parents.
“The one thing that kept coming up was the ineligibility policy,” he said.
The ineligibility policy, also known as “No pass/no play,” essentially restricts participation in athletics or extracurricular activities for students who failed classes.
“Philosophically, it didn’t sit well with me because it comes from a place of punishment,” Peterson continued.
As a group, school officials put their heads together how to hold kids accountable, but instead of punishing students, they decided to support them.
What they came up with was a three-tiered system.
Grades are published and reviewed internally every two weeks, and students with failing grades must show compliance with the following levels of support to override ineligibility and participate:
n Tier 1 — The student must attended office hours for the class(es) they are failing and work productively on raising their grade. Students may additionally be placed in Tier 2 at this time if they are failing three or more classes.
n Tier 2 — In addition to Tier 1 support, after two weeks, if grade(s) are still not passing, the student will be required to attend after school tutoring for the classes they are failing.
n Tier 3 — Academic support will be made available on Saturdays. Students who have spent two weeks on Tier 1 and another two weeks on Tier 2 without raising their grade to passing must attend Saturday academic support from 8 to 11 a.m. in order to override ineligibility and participate.
Saturday academic support is also available to any student who voluntarily wishes to come in and receive help.
“We were lucky because the structure was here in place,” Peterson said. “We have an academic advisor period built into the day. It’s called office hours here.”
As long as students are making an effort to do better, regardless if they are passing or not, they are eligible to participate in extracurricular that day. Every day students are coming off the list, Peterson said.
Peterson said the partnership with the parents are the key to the success of the program.
This year, he said the school worked in a layer where they utilize their Parent Square app to send a message to all the students who are failing on Monday. They tell them which classes they are failing, where they have to go, which teachers they need to see, and if they have to go to tutoring.
“When students are connected to their school, they feel a sense of belonging and they will perform better academically,” he said. “Punishing them by taking away sports and extracurricular I think can be detrimental.”
Peterson said the Student Support System allows the students to remain connected while allowing them to continue to participate in extracurricular, even if they are failing.
“As long as they are trying, that’s all we can ask for,” he said.