High school adds an extra daily period to tutor failing students
Administrators at Berkeley Springs High School ushered in a new class schedule this week, aimed at giving failing students a chance to salvage their grades.
Principal George Ward said Monday that students would meet for an additional 30-minute class period each day, either receiving tutoring in subjects they were failing or engaging in club activities like FFA or student council.
Adding the extra period, known as the Reteach Enrichment class, is made possible by shortening every other class periods by five minutes, Ward said.
We're trying to carve out time to help kids who aren't passing, to finish their homework and get extra help, said Ward.
Of the school's 727 students in grades 9-12, Ward said 200 students, or 28% of the student body, will get tutoring because they're failing at least one subject on their class schedule.
Roughly 30-40 students who are failing three or more classes will meet in a group where they get both tutoring and counseling from school staff, said Ward.
If they fail three or more classes, it's probably not about academics, he said.
New approach, old problem
The problem of how to help failing students isn't a new
one, according to Ward. Teachers have discussed what to do with struggling pupils many times, and the new half-hour class period came up after an awful lot of discussion, said Ward.
Before school and after-school tutoring programs haven't worked so well in the past, Ward said, because students have transportation issues and other activities that compete for their time, like jobs and sports.
Teachers, too, aren't always available to work with students outside of school hours.
The only time we have control over them is during the school day, Ward said.
Because the period comes during the instructional day, and fits a state course description, students will get credit for their class activities during that time.
For students who are doing well academically, the half-hour period can be spent rounding out their activities in school clubs or community projects.
This class period is an instructional period, Ward said.
I don't know why we didn't think of this before, he said.
While the new class setup has taken some coordination, including come class time adjustments for students attending James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville, Ward said now is the time to institute the new schedule.
We may be able to save some kids by the end of the year. It may mean 10 or 15 more scholarships. It may mean the difference between making the right choice and the wrong choice, said Ward.
As this year's graduation fast approaches, the class of Berkeley Springs High School seniors is of special concern to Ward, as he says it is every year.
We are worried and concerned the seniors get the help they need to graduate, he said.
But each class of students has its own concerns.
Freshmen who fail a course or two dig a hole for themselves, Ward said.
By the 10th grade, students take standardized tests that are important to both the student and the school. If they're struggling at that grade, their junior year becomes more difficult.
Ward said that by the 11th grade, underperforming students may have realized they want to strive for college, but have to recover from a poor grade point average and try to master skills measured on college preparatory exams.
The worst thing that can happen is we fail. We don't want to say we didn't care enough to try, said Ward of the tutoring plan.
In addition to better grades, students have an added incentive to take advantage of the extra help being offered to them during the school day. If the students turn their failing grades around during a 9-week grading period, they will get a chance to do something other than tutoring during the Reteach Enrichment class period.
Because students begin their last marking period next week, the rest of this school year will be a proving ground both for the struggling pupils and for the school's attempt to help them up.