EDITORIAL: Intense teaching

The Tupelo Public Schools’ planned “college” for academic intervention with struggling students spins off well-developed programs in some other schools and school districts nationwide seeking to prevent dropouts and ensure long-term success, even beyond high school.
A program outlined this week by Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill would enroll students who are struggling at the middle school level in an atmosphere of intensive instruction in language arts, math, social studies and science, all essential for success in high school – and beyond.
If the program succeeds as expected, students’ risk of dropping out because of discouragement and failure in the middle school years would be diminished. Continuing instruction until timely high school graduation is achieved is included in the goals for the program.
Extensive studies nationwide and in Mississippi show that students falling behind age peers in the crucial transitional years of middle school almost always become higher risks for dropping out, setting a path for failure rather than lifetime success.
Middle school is widely considered a “a critical gateway,” as one study describes it.
The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress report found that two-thirds of 8th graders were scoring below grade level in reading and math. Other findings show that students who fail 6th and 8th grade state tests have about a 1 in 6 chance of graduating from high school.
High school graduation is universally considered the necessary benchmark for further success, especially in becoming fully capable of earning a good living.
The “academy,” as described by Hill, would replace the core program at the Fillmore Center, which currently offers struggling students extra instruction and includes enrollment for behavioral-issue students. The academy would separate the two groups of students.
Students would remain in the academy program for at least one year and until they perform at grade level on all tests.
Interventions are widely practiced in many disciplines and for many individual problems like addictions and behavioral disorders. Not all interventions succeed, but the probability of successful outcomes is enhanced compared to the status quo. In fact, an academic intervention program could be linked, as in Seattle, with special programs beyond the school day and school year providing structure, enrichment and productive discipline.
Success in academic intervention almost certainly would be reflected in measures of yearly academic progress, an essential and important component in Mississippi’s new education accountability system, a measure in which Tupelo’s schools showed a need for improvement.
If collaboration is the model for 21st century student learning, the results can be enhanced in wider collaboration in behalf of students.

NEMS Daily Journal