Twelve years (2006-2018) of study and work has ended with a focus on LEARNING LABS. First, we provided three years of academic support at a low-income apartment complex with the KITE program, developing strategies. This taught us what we needed to be closer to school data and the school environment. For six years, we took part throughout the state with the Supplementary Educational Support (SES) program giving students outside support with private tutors. We also worked with 50 students in the Edmonds School District's Alderwood Middle School to determine, what needed to be present to guarantee academic success for students so they would be ready for high school prior to 9th grade?
For one and a half years, ALO has teamed with Olympic View Middle to create a school-wide 'LEARNING LABS Student Success' program serving up to 950 students. We focus on what "works". LEARNING LABS begins with the entering class and each year the next class is added until the entire school embraces student success. During the first year of middle school, concentrated assistance is provided to all students and parents. The following year(s) the program focuses on those students who continue to struggle. The program is a beyond-the-school day, data driven, program. It promotes academic success by rewarding students for meeting expectations and providing academic assistance when needed. A team environment is created with the students, the parents, and the school. The program takes place at the school and involves volunteers from 8th grade, the local high schools and community members. It is no cost to the student, and an "as needed" program. Students are then prepared for the rigors of high school, understanding the relationship of hard work, choice, and academic success.
The Program is built around four essential elements that MUST be present for student success:
- Strong parenting program: Parents are a critical part of the academic team. Parents are our clients. Students who earn D or F grades have shown they cannot find school success on their own, be it a lack of hope for their future, lack of resiliency to deal with life happenings, or not being a good self-advocate. We team with parents so they can be successful.
- Bi-weekly monitoring with feedback: All students are monitored to determine who needs to be on the radar screen. BIPOC, low income students, and foster children make up most of our focus. Chars and lists keep us focused on who needs support.
- Bi-weekly congratulations rewards: Students who earn A, B, C letter grades are rewarded with "fun" certificates with monthly community rewards for great improvement.
- Additional time and support: Students not meeting teacher expectations are the focus. This is equity. Support takes place during lunchtime and after school to discuss and review academic and personal data in a study-table environment to complete work, redo work, make up missing work, and practice for knowledge and skill improvement.
The first GOAL is for all students to meet or exceed grade level standards by earning A, B, C grades in classes. No D or F's. Failure is not an option. Students are held accountable to meeting their teacher's expectations. The second goal is for students to pass the state ELA (Language Arts) and Math SBA test.
COVID 19 has stopped our intensive support. Currently, we are transforming our in-school model to the distance learning model to offer struggling students, based on data, additional academic support online.
Information gathered from Olympic View's experience is being used to write a comprehensive LEARNING LABS manual. This will be made available for middle and high school to use as their "Student Success" Program. It will include planning/organization, implementation, and evaluation of the program. The "HOW TO" manual, if followed, will guarantee student academic success. It will contain: camera-ready policies, forms, Step-by-Step How To, congratulations certificates, parent meeting agendas, data collection and usage, and a comprehensive study-skills section, It will have a section on Distance Learning and how to offer school-wide tutor/mentoring to students online.
ALO is committed to be a voice for equity and closing the educational gap for BIPOC and other pejorative children in need. We know our work needs to be intentional. The new normal clearly articulates existing injustices that exist for BIPOC and the educational gap it has caused. We address gender, classism, and systemic racism barriers. ALO is in a strategic position to open the doors of educational opportunity for struggling children and to help fight for inclusion. We are in a good position to proactively recognize and address racial biases and practices which lead to injustice among children. Our goal is to build the best, sustainable low-cost beyond-the-school-day opportunity for children who struggle academically. The time is now for change!