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Under The Radar

We can’t win ’em all, right? Wrong. We are making some huge mistakes that are costing our students dearly. I now have seen more than a handful of students who have failed a majority of their classes and skated by under the radar of every accountability tracker we have. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are things we are doing that are great. We have as system of tracking students. But that’s about where that stops. In the academy I am teamed with this year, we have been discussing the same students for two quarters of the school year. Nothing has changed. The tracking portion is just the beginning. We need a more robust method of connecting with and intervening when these students are at risk, for whatever reason. 

What is more, one of my students has flown so low under the radar, he hasn’t passed a class in two years. Yes, I wrote that correctly. Two years. That is an abysmal hole that this student now has to climb in order to graduate on time. The worst part about his situation is that when you connect with him he readily admits that he is struggling with reading. How has this student gotten this far in school without a single note of evaluation? Easy, he presents as a behavior problem in class. 

There are, however, a few ways we can not only catch these students more efficiently but also provide the academic supports needed for them to be successful. For starters tracking is only the beginning, and the methods we use to track students needs to be more robust. For example, all students should be screened prior to entering the high school for potential struggles. If we looked at all the students who are struggling in classes now, we can generally see the same trend as we look back through their records. I know that we want to treat each student as a blank slate and give them a fresh start, but there are some times when teaching having more information can be helpful. This brings me to the second thing we absolutely need: procedures. 

We have no specific procedures for interventions, data recording, etc. at this level. We have been so focused on how to track these things and ensure that the data moves on to the next teacher or school that we have completely forgotten that we never were trained on these interventions in the first place. Nevermind finding time to schedule such rigorous and personal interventions, which is a definite need when we are talking about almost 3000 students to 160 staff. But we have no official procedure for connecting with these students, no strategies that are trained on and used with fidelity, and no follow up procedures for what to do when an intervention doesn’t work. We have teams of teachers who truly care for these kids who are spinning their wheels in the mud and walking in circles. 

So I guess this is my own call to action. I am no expert on dealing with these types of problems and trying to schedule and train teachers on that level. However, I do have the perspective of seeing this as a major issue and seeing what could potentially be done to fix it. I think this is something that needs to go several layers higher than myself. Not in a negative way, but it does need to be addressed as I have served in 3 academies and seen similar issues prevail. 

If anyone out there at another high school has any advice whatsoever, please email me. I am more than willing to listen and bring whatever advice you have to the top of the food chain. We are doing a disservice to our students who need the most from us. 

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