By Katie Dudlets
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
HASLETT — Haslett High School follows a unique framework for monitoring student activity that has led to continued academic success in an effort to minimize the number of students falling under state proficiency levels.
Haslett High School’s Principal Bart Wegenke said that the school follows a framework called multi-tiered system of supports. This framework separates the student body into three different tiers. Tier one is the core group, in which 80 percent of the students are at or above grade level. Tier two consists of the students just outside the core, due to things like minor absences or not doing all of their homework. And the final group is tier three.
“That’s our most intensive tier in terms of supports,” said Wegenke. “It would be like the student that isn’t coming to school, isn’t doing their homework, is on the borderline of failing, or maybe even has failed.”
Haslett High School’s Annual Education Report (AER) states that the school “has discovered that the key groups of students who present academic challenges are the Bottom 30 [percent] and the Economically Disadvantaged.” It notes that the assessment scores for these two groups are below the state of Michigan’s proficiency targets.
“In order to accommodate this proficiency deficit, Haslett High School analyzes achievement, attendance and discipline data on ALL students,” according to the AER.
Wegenke said that the school has programs and supports in place, both in the classroom and outside, to make the students more successful.
According to U.S. News and World Reports, students at HHS scored higher in average proficiency in both mathematics and reading than the state average. In overall student performance, HHS performed better than statistically expected given their student poverty level, and the disadvantaged students outperformed the state in proficiency on state exams.
The school’s goal is to have the number of students in tier one increase to 85 to 90 percent. However, in order to maintain at least 80 percent, they progress monitor each student.
“When we progress monitor kids, every three to four weeks we look at attendance, we look at behavior and then we look at course performance – the ABCs,” said Wegenke. “Every nine weeks we have an ABC or data team that meets, which is a combination of counselors, administrators and school improvement people, and we look at all the students who fall below the benchmark for A, B and C.”
Science teacher and interventions coach Stephanie Livingston runs attendance, discipline and grade reports for all students every three to four weeks.
“A student is flagged for having a D or E in a course, more than 12 absences, and/or three minor discipline infractions,” said Livingston. “Once a student is flagged, the data team puts a plan into place with the student to support his or her success.”
The team is able to meet with these students, who are typically in tiers two and three, individually and either modify a previous progress plan or start an entirely different system of support. Wegenke said that this sometimes comes in the form of a staffing, in which the student, teachers and parents are brought into a meeting to create more communication within the group, in the hope of greater success for the student.
While this can certainly help students in the lower tiers, it has seemingly no effect on the students in tier one. Freshman Mekayla Ford said students assume they are in good standing if they are not called in to work on a progress plan.
“There’s a middle area where you don’t really know,” said Ford. “Most people are just aware of themselves and how often they’re not at school.”
For others, this tiered system can help them get back on track towards graduation. Sophomore Cadence Yunker said that while the entire process is not explained fully to the students, they are informed when improvement is needed.
“Freshman year I wasn’t doing so hot, so Mr. Wegenke talked to me,” said Yunker. “My grades weren’t too great, so he just had me talk.”
Yunker was told to take advantage of the supports that were in place, like after school tutoring and homework sessions. But for other students, this process can be more rigorous.
“What we do with a student in the tier three system is a program called check and connect,” said Wegenke. “They check in in the morning, in first or second hour, and they check out with a teacher fifth or sixth hour. We help them organize their day, manage their homework.”
Wegenke said this program allows the staff to advocate for their students, and it is meant to be only a temporary solution.
“Check and connect is a program that kids don’t live in – they don’t stay forever,” said the principal. “Once they back up to passing classes, we exit them. Some kids stay longer than others.”
Dr. William Schmidt, a Michigan State University distinguished professor in the College of Education, said the program finds success due to its two key elements: support and organization.
“What they’re trying to do is set up a system that greatly facilitates and helps [students] organize their day,” said Schmidt. “[The three-tiered system] seems like a help system and I think it’s well designed.”
Livingston believes that the frequent analysis of the data allows plans to be put in place early on so that students are never falling too far behind.
“Since we have fully embraced the idea of EWS (early warning systems, or the ABCs) we see fewer students failing courses and more students engaged in class,” said Livingston.
Schmidt said this is particularly helpful in reaching out to the students that are economically disadvantaged, as mentioned in the AER, because it focuses on teaching the skills that these students do not typically command.
“[With] lower [socioeconomic status] kids, one of the big problems is that they don’t have the skillset that allows them to sit and organize,” said Schmidt. “It’s not surprising to me that [the systems of support] would help the students. They’re helping them stay structured and stay on board and stay organized.”
Wegenke said the program has been a key to their success as a school because it allows staff to give each student the best possible chance of academic achievement.
“We have a running, chronological story of each kid,” said Wegenke. “We can carry it over from one year to the next… It also tells a story about the things that impede the student’s ability to attend school or stay focused in school.”
In that way, the ABC Dashboard (the online documentation system for the program) allows teachers to keep note of what seems to help the student to improve. While Schmidt said the program is not the cleverest idea he has ever heard, he emphasizes that it is a good system.
“It’s just a very common sense type of approach to help students that struggle,” said Schmidt.