'You may not elect to fail'
School board is told what they must do to ensure better student performance at CCHSCrook County School Board members were told Monday night they need to provide new means so that students can succeed academically.
This was a key component of an educational reform video featuring comments by Rick DarFour, who is a former principal at Adlai Stevenson High School in Illinois. DarFour has traveled around the nation, speaking of the urgency of educational reform, particularly at the high school level.
Board member Riley Stock said he attended an Oregon School Board Association meeting several years ago and heard the DarFour presentation.
"I was very, very impressed," Stock said. He said that one tool that impressed him the most is that a school takes "a team of resources" and "focus on the kid who is having problems." Quoting from the presentation, Stock said of what was told to students: "You will be successful here. You may not elect to fail."
DarFour said the high school made certain changes. For example, for failing students at first academic help was made available to teenagers. But after six weeks, that assistance was made mandatory, not optional.
He said that at Stevenson High School, the staff built a schedule, "particularly for incoming students." This includes a 25-minute advisory period for freshmen and five upperclassmen mentors for students.
Board member Steve Caraway spoke with Crook County High School Principal Jim Golden, saying that it appears the high school has already implemented a number of these types of tools. Caraway later said that sometimes when children turn 13, 14, or 15, parents will ask "where did I go wrong?" He added that parenting skills need to begin early on.
Golden confirmed the changes that are taking place at CCHS, saying that the Connections class has been in full swing for another school year. Additionally, next year students will take a full year of English and a full year of math.
"All of it really ties in together about not letting kids fail," Golden said. He has also visited about 13 high schools around Oregon to see what they are doing differently than CCHS, as previously reported in the Central Oregonian.
Principal Golden was realistic, saying that although the pieces are in place for academic changes at the high school more work needs to be done.
"We don't make any excuses," he said. "We need to get better. The teachers need to get better."
Additionally, this coming Saturday is when the high school is planning to have Saturday sessions for students who have attendance problems. Next year, there will also be a student time on Wednesdays for either club participation, academic enrichment, or if necessary, academic assistance and tutoring.
In the last couple of years, faculty members at CCHS have been paired with all high school students, so that students have a mentor all four years. Essentially teachers should not only know their subject matter, but they should also serve as mentors and role models. Golden commented on that and other modifications.
"These are additional big changes," Principal Golden emphasized. "And they are radical changes. This is different than when I was in high school. `I'm a math teacher. Leave me alone.'"