Lanphier High School in Springfield, Ill., is starting the second year of a three-year, $5.2-million School Improvement Grant, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and school officials are optimistic. Total budget for this year is a little more than $1.4 million.
The grant started a year ago, with lofty goals of doubling the number of students at the school who meet or exceed standards on Illinois’s Prairie State Acheivement Exam in both mathematics and English/language arts, increasing the graduation rate to 100 percent for all subgroups of students, and increasing attendance a little to 95 percent, all by 2014, when the grant expires.
Specific goals for the 2012-13 school year include improving the attendance rate, implementing a weekly “early warning system” to alert students, parents, and teachers to issues with student progress, encouraging teachers collaboration, training more teachers to teach advanced placement courses, and persuading more students to take AP courses. These goals are a slight modification from the program’s original goals, here, but they are mostly aimed in the same direction: up.
Students say they have already noticed a difference, the State Journal-Register reports.
“I notice a lot more (students) come to check to see how they are doing, to see how much we’ve improved, because we have improved,” one student told the paper.
And school attendance is up, too. In 2011, the rate was 88.3 percent. The rate will be available for the 2011-12 school year in about two months when official numbers are released from the Illinois State Board of Education, but the school’s August-September, 2012, newsletter said there were 18,746.5 combined student-absence days last year, resulting in the loss of nearly 122,000 instructional hours. In plain terms, that means more than 100 Lanphier students were absent on an average day.
The newsletter also said that almost a third of Lanphier’s students missed more than 18 days, and given the 180-day school year, that takes care of the 90% right there. Good thing it was only one-third of the class!
What they’re doing about it
Two big programs have been instituted this school year at the school, one for attendance and one for academics.
The specific details of the attendance program haven’t been made available yet, except to say that it includes both prevention and intervention strategies and that it will create a culture at the school where attendance is valued. Celebrations and incentives are said to be part of the plan. The program’s slogan is “Climb the ladder of success: attendance is what we do best.”
The academic programs carry over from last year, including one-on-one meetings between volunteers and students in a program called “Making the Grade.” It meets four times during the school year—Oct. 3, Nov. 30, Feb. 22, and May 3—and aims to provide students with individual attention on their classes or study habits to increase their grades. The school is looking for volunteers on their website, here.
The Answer Maryland Solution
The fact that Lanphier High School, as part of a federally-funded School Improvement Grant, wants people to volunteer who can help students one-on-one makes me realize that the Answer Maryland idea, which Voxitatis launched for Maryland students, can help Illinois students as well.
It’s based on the idea that everyone—teachers, teachers at other schools, even a state department of education worker like me—is being called to assist our schools and get involved by acting sort of as a teacher’s aide whenever we can. The Answer Maryland system, available at http://www.learnvox.org, was specifically designed to set up these one-on-one sessions online. All students (and teachers from other schools) are anonymous, and input from experts for every student “conversation” is guaranteed. The hypothesis is that learning often comes down to having a “conversation” with someone who can provide guidance at the time when it’s needed.
Answer Maryland just makes it convenient in a design that looks something like a social network. It’s free (unless you have us grade student papers), and there are no ads. For individual students, it runs like an online version of walking into a tutoring room for help on a homework assignment. Except they’re anonymous, as are the tutors (unless the tutor is a teacher whose class they’re in). Students can see conversations by other students they’re connected to and offer their advice as well. Principal Artie Doss, here we are. Sign 'em up.
Illinois Schools with School Improvement Grants
Schools have to be in improvement status or have special Title I eligibility to qualify for the federal grants. These are typically the lowest-performing high schools in the state.
In the cohort of schools in the year before Lanphier (2011-13), the following schools received SIGs: Fenger High School, Harper High School, Marshall Metro High School, Phillips High School (all in Chicago PSD 299); DePue (USD 103) High School, Egyptian (CUSD 4) High School, and (Peoria PSD 150) Manual High School.
(Springfield SD 186) Lanphier High School’s cohort (2012-14) includes John Hancock College Prep, Juarez Community Academy, Percy L. Julian High School, Kelvyn Park High School, North Lawndale College Prep, Richards Career Academy, Tilden Career Community Academy, Wells Community Academy (all in Chicago PSD 299); (Decatur PSD 61) Eisenhower High School, North Chicago (SD 187) Community High School, Peoria (PSD 150) High School, and Sandoval (CUSD 501) High School.