Jan Link, founder, and Director of Academic Link Outreach (ALO) put into practice this maxim for more than fifty years. Her passion for the academic success of students is unparalleled. After thirty-six years of service in public schools as a teacher, curriculum director, elementary and high school principal, Jan knew she must promote her vision to provide continued academic support for students. Many students need more instruction and more time-on-task to find academic success.
Instead of retiring she opened an academic support and enrichment center in Kirkland. Two decades later, her daughter, Leslie Mix, continues to provide one-on-one and small group support but ALO branched out into schools with LEARNING LABS. The goal is to reach more students at the school setting and at no or little cost.
Jan continues to serve students of Washington with her creativity, commitment, and intense passion of academic success for all children. She lives by the motto: “Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and he has food for a lifetime”.
Two major aspects of study were holding the students accountable to the expectations of the system and motivating them to become independent learners.
PATH students were held to very high standards of earning A and B Grades and passing the State test. PATH showed that every student can excel when held accountable by parents and staff, with support available when needed. The goal was for them to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, no D or F grades, pass the “College Knowledge” test, and be involved in at least two school or community activities. Monthly parent/student meetings were held to develop a team effort and support an academic culture among the students.
We teamed with parents, monitored and documented grades and worked with students to be a self-advocate. We sent congratulatory notes and emails. Earning D or an F resulted in a letter, a To Do list, or a phone call home to discuss roadblocks and how to address them. We met one afterschool a week for academic support.
At the end of 9th grade, 49 students were in the program for two students had moved out of state. Sixteen students earned all A’s. Three more earned all A’s plus one other grade. 61% (176/290) of the grades were A, 29% (82/290) grades were B, 9% (26/290) were C, and 1% (3 of 290 grades) were D. There were no F’s. We felt confident and successful with the PATH students.
Ending the grant, at the end of 9th grade, we continued to monitor students through high school graduation.
We took what we learned worked and are currently in the process of completing a comprehensive manual for other middle school if one wants to promote academic achievement and a strong work ethic.
A year and half prior to COVID, we teamed with Olympic View Middle School to work with the tried successful procedures. The question, Will what have worked for fifty, work with two-hundred and fifty. The goal is to create a school-wide Student Success program serving 950 students. It begins with the entering class and each year adds the next class until the entire school embraces the student success. During the first year of middle school, concentrated assistance is provided to all students and parents of the entering class.
One trimester into our now three-year proposal, we were stopped. We could not use necessary volunteers, nor could we keep students after school or work with parents, key characteristics of what worked. We helped with on-line learning and zoom tutoring support for students. At the beginning or 2022, we began again with the incoming 6th grade class. This year, we are confident we have a workable plan.
The program is a beyond-the-school-day, data driven program. The program takes place at the school and is at no cost to students. It involves the use of volunteers from 8th grade, high school, and the community at its after-school study. It is an “as needed” program.
It is built on four essential elements that must be present for success:
- Strong parent participation. Parents are our client and a critical member of the team.
- Bi-weekly academic monitoring with feedback: All students are monitored to determine need. Charts and lists keep us focused on who needs support. BIPOC, low income, and foster children make up most of our focus.
- Bi-weekly congratulations rewards: Students who earn A, B, C grades are rewarded with fun certificates and community thank you.
- Additional time and support: Students not meeting expectations are the focus. Time is given these students during lunchtime to create “Plan of Actions” and more instruction and time-on-task are provided after school to complete work, redo work, and make up missing work.
In addition, study skills are taught and additional Common Core instruction and practice, along with test taking strategies, are provided to prepare for the state test.
The goal: The first GOAL is for all students to meet or exceed teacher and grade level expectations shown by earning A, B, C grades. No D or N grades. Failure is not an option. The second GOAL is for students to pass the State ELA and math SBA test.
We found students in a much different place academically, socially, and emotionally following COVID than prior to COVID…and adults. We are working through that and seeing progress. The plan is to complete this year with the students and provide the SBA classes on Fridays until June. During that time, we will document the successes into a LEARNING LABS manual available for schools to use in their Student Success programs.
The manual will include planning/organization, implementation, and evaluation of the program. The “How To” manual, if followed, will guarantee greater student academic success. It will contain camera-ready policies, forms, Step-by-Step How To, congratulations certificates, ten parent meeting agendas and materials, 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. It will be all inclusive.
ALO will continue 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 to opportunity for struggling children and to help fight for inclusion. We are in a good position to proactive 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-cay opportunity for children who struggle academically. The time for change is now!