Student Learning Support key to student success

Stillwater Area High School’s mission supports actions to prepare its students for success in both post secondary education and in life.
April 06, 2012

Stillwater Area High School’s mission supports actions to prepare its students for success in both post secondary education and in life. It is important that our high school works to mirror expectations that are similar to what students will encounter after graduating from SAHS.

As a high school, we also recognize that we are working with high school students, not employees or adults. In a work-place scenario, an employee who consistently fails to complete his or her work may end up getting fired. On the other hand, for a high school student, we must model and support the learner in work completion, fostering both the learning of academic content and the importance of responsibility.  

In a more global framework, the consequences of student failure for our society are quite high:

  • In 2008, more than 1.2 million students dropped out of school (Swanson, 2008).
  • Dropouts are 50 percent less likely to have a job that offers a pension plan or health insurance (Muenning & Woolf, 2007).
  • The National Institute for Literacy estimates that approximately 70 percent of adult welfare recipients have lower level literacy skills, and about 47 percent of adult welfare recipients have not graduated from high school (USDOE, 2003).
  • 85% of juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate (USDOE, 2003).  

At SAHS, allowing a single student to fail without intervention or enabling a student’s failure proves dire for everyone. Our staff work in Professional Learning Communities and we focus our professional resources and best practices around four aspects of student learning:

  1. Standards: What do we want students to know?
  2. Assessment: How do we know if they know it?
  3. Intervention: What do we do if they do not know it?
  4. Acceleration: What do we do if they do know it?

The third question above illustrates the need for action if we see that a student is not meeting the standards that we have set. Our Student Learning Support (SLS) pilot implements a system of intervention for students that are falling behind. The goal of the SLS system is to assist students in completing missing work while modeling for them the required levels of accountability for success both in academics and later in life. In developing the SLS system, a tiered intervention system was created in a pilot format for grade 10 students in the class of 2014. The process allows for the follwing three steps of intervention:

  1. If a student is three assignments behind in a class, the teacher may refer the student to SLS.
  2. A counselor meets with the student/parents to problem solve and assign an SLS work completion session.
  3. The student completes the work.

If after the three steps above are taken, the student is still not completing work, then further academic intervention is considered. In brief, the steps of our intervention system are as follows:

  1. 30- to 45-minute before- or after-school SLS sessions
  2. In-School Learning Support: Finding time in the student’s day to complete work while at school
  3. Lunch Study: A work completion setting which replaces the student’s normal lunch period
  4. YCAPP: Time spent at our alternative suspension center to complete work
  5. Referral to special education or Section 504 Persons with Disabilities Act Support
  6. Exploring other supportive educational options such as the St. Croix Valley Alternative Learning Center
  7. Exploring other barriers to student success such as mental, chemical or behavioral health

Through this system of intervention, we have witnessed a number of student success stories and an increase in the amount of academic engagement. 

  • During the 2011-2012 first semester, SLS aided in the completion of 583 assignments, and we anticipate over 1200 assignments will be completed using the SLS system by the end of this school year.
  • 30 percent of students referred to SLS simply complete their work prior to their assigned SLS session, thereby not having to attend the session.
  • The number of 10th graders receiving an F in first semester is significantly down in comparison to past years.
  • Students have found the before- and after-school sessions helpful. In many cases, students have voluntarily attended the sessions for support rather than being assigned by a counselor or teacher. 

By providing a systematic response to students who are not learning or completing work, we are providing opportunities to students and families to increase the likelihood of future academic success. As educators, it is our obligation to intervene and address the students who are not learning. 

In the long run, education is the engine for our society’s economic success and a key part of democracy. With the fast-paced development of the global economy, we cannot allow for any of our students to slip through the cracks.

The SLS pilot will continue throughout the remainder of the the 2011-2012 school year. We anticipate applying this program next year to all students in grades 10-12 who demonstrate a need. Planning is underway to expand the amount of support for students, as we have observed that the best way to motivate a student is to make a personal connection.