October 24, 2014

SSC starts program to help freshmen adjust

Posted

STANDISH — Incoming freshmen to Standish-Sterling Central High School will be greeted with a new support program this year called Freshman Focus.

The program is designed to help freshmen transition from eighth grade to high school.

“We have to make a transition. We have to do something to get from eighth grade to ninth grade to support (students), before they make decisions at 14 and 15 that are going to affect them for the rest of their lives,” Principal Rodger Fritz said.

He said there will be core teachers for math, English, social studies, and science. The program will also include special education, health and physical education.

“We have six core classroom teachers,” Fritz said.

Superintendent Michael Dodge said Freshman Focus will operate like a team, trying to prevent problems early, and the teachers are ready.

“Teachers will be able to give more attention and mentor students,” Dodge said.

Fritz said starting this fall, as part of the program, a freshman focus class will be taught by all six teachers involved, splitting the students into groups of around 25, teaching and helping them adjust to high school. He added that the classes will focus on everything from test-taking skills, to how to act during assemblies.

“It’s like a school within a school, Fritz said. “It’s kind of a safe haven of students who struggled to fit in or struggled in classes.”

Dodge said the program will benefit students who may feel like they don’t belong there.

“It can create more participation and less feelings of helplessness,” he said.

Fritz said the program has worked in other areas like Gladwin and Farwell.

“I have spoken with the teachers. We have gone to a couple of professional developments,” he said. “We have gone to Gladwin; we have gone to Farwell. We have an understanding of how we want to run it.”

He said Gladwin studied a similar program for the past 10 years, and it showed around 35 percent of freshman students were failing core classes. After the program was implemented that number fell to 6 percent.

“Our goal is to not be looking at 30 to 35 freshman failing core classes next year,” Fritz said. “Our goal is zero.”

He said one hallway in the school will be designated where all the classes will be held.

“It’s not a prison or a jail,” Fritz said. “All we are trying to do is be proactive and get support in before they fail.”

“You are only as good as the people you have running the class, no matter what the idea is,” he said. “We are going to meet the first part of August and plan some activities.”

Fritz said that an attempt to improve the academics of 10th- through 12-graders is also being pursued during summer school.

“We are hoping to get some credit recovery, specifically with English and math,” he said. “We have targeted students who had 50 to 59 percent in their (classes). Our goal is to bring them up.”

Fritz said the student will still receive a failing grade for the class, but will get credit.

Another addition that is being considered for students this year will be the addition of a zero hour before regular class time.

“We can assign students to that time period with the (decision coming from the parents),” Fritz said. “You want your (child) to pass. They need to complete core credits. We have an opportunity with a zero hour to do that.”

Fritz said this year students will be notified when they are missing assignments and a night will be set aside to let them stay and complete their work.

“It’s not mandatory, but if you are going to pass, you have to have specific classes,” he said.

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