By Emily Binns
In an effort to increase student success academically, assistant principal Amy Slabaugh began a program for incoming freshmen students with two or more failed classes from middle school. These students will not be able to leave campus for their lunch until they have received at least four passing grades in their current classes.
This effort is an attempt to motivate these students to improve in their studies. For some, however, this goal has been more difficult to reach.
The 18 students who are taking part in the program are expected to check in with a paraprofessional working in the cafeteria or with assistant principal Amy Slabaugh at the beginning and end of their lunch period. At the end of each semester, their grades will be assessed and if they have improved enough, meaning that they are no longer failing two or more of their classes, then they will have earned back the privilege of leaving the school campus for lunch.
These few students in the program were chosen based on their academic scores as eighth graders, so for now, the program only includes freshmen. If a student had failed two or more classes their last year in middle school, a letter was sent home to their families to explain the new system and its intentions.
“Students and parents have been fabulous in understanding and cooperating with us,” Slabaugh, the leader of the initiative said. “The idea of the program is to let them know that they have to earn the privilege of open campus lunch. We hope that this will be a sure motivator for students to become more actively involved in academic success.”
Although this does not guarantee students will suddenly begin passing their classes, Slabaugh hopes and expects that most of them will not be in the program for the next semester.
Studies show that a student’s freshman year is a very good indicator of how well that individual will do for the rest of his or her high school career.
“We take academic success and failure very seriously,” Slabaugh said.
Many teachers, such as math teacher Johnny Chatman and science teacher Misty Theisen also think that the program will be very beneficial to students. Both teachers, however, have their own take on where and how they think the program should grow.
Theisen believes that the closed lunch should be spent working on homework or classwork that they might have missed due to absences.
“Some of my students have already missed multiple days and need the time to catch up,” Theisen said. “If the closed lunch was spent this way students would have plenty of time and the resources they need to complete assignments that they might not have done without this time.”
There has been little talk about it at this point, but the question of whether or not to add upperclassmen to the program has arisen. Although freshmen are not the only students who may benefit from the closed lunch incentive to score higher in their classes, it has not been implemented for other grades yet because the success of the program is not fully known yet.
Chatman says that he thinks the program should be gradually introduced to the school’s upperclassmen.
“This year, the freshmen started with the program,” Chatman said. “Next year the program should follow those same freshmen into their sophomore year and then also include the new freshmen. This is a strong reminder to students that their grades are important and that they impact many areas of their lives.”
Some say the upperclassmen would benefit even more than the freshmen because they are the ones who have a license and a car. There are a much greater number of upperclassmen who go out to lunch than freshmen because of this.
“It would really hit home with the upperclassmen,” Theisen said.
So far, the exact success of the program is not known, but teachers and those involved are very optimistic and hope that the improvements already seen will last throughout the year.
“Anything to help failing students,” Theisen said.