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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Intervention for Failing Students: The Mandatory Study Session

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

At a recent professional-development day, I challenged my colleagues to think about how we could reduce the number of students in our lower division (grades nine and ten) -- especially the ninth graders -- who fail high school courses. "What if we decided that failure is not an option, and that success is the only choice available to us?" I asked them.

Here's one strategy that seems to be working at our newest school, the Impact Academy, in Hayward, California:

  • When a student doesn't complete a major assignment, including an exhibition, an essay, a test, or a lab, the teacher enters his or her name in a shared Google spreadsheet.
  • The school's instructional assistant calls the student's parents and notifies them that the student is scheduled to remain on campus after school the next day for a mandatory study session.
  • The next day, the instructional assistant gives the student a reminder slip during the last period of the day.
  • The student stays for the mandatory study session until the assignment is complete. (The instructional assistant runs the study session every day from 3 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.)
  • The student turns in the assignment to the teacher and the teacher deletes the student's name from the spreadsheet.

From time to time, I'll highlight a successful intervention strategy that seems to be working at Envision Schools. Please share your own ideas, or tell us about how your school deals with this issue.

Comments (37)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

John Garrett's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am curious as to how this is working. I work at a middle school and we have something similar that is a tutoring session. It is not mandatory but kids can be assigned it by a teacher or parents. This is in addition to what teachers want to do after school with their students as well as a few afterschool programs we have for students to stay after school while parents work.

What are you seeing in the way of success rates in students? Are grade increasing over time? Are you seeing their missing/incomple work drop as a result of this intervention? What is the reaction from parents?

Noles's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This sounds interesting. What is the next step in the intervention when a student skips a mandated session?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also have that question. Is transportation an issue?

Brad's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think this sounds like a great idea but what if the parents of the student refuse this intervention?

Brad's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think this sounds like a great idea, but what happends if the student refuse this intervention? How would you change this for a younger group of students?

Robin Zindel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This sounds like a very interesting approach. I wonder if this has been considered in the lower grades as well? I too wonder if transportation is an issue and how much support do you have from parents? Is this intervention working? Are you seeing a decrease in missing assingments? I would be curious to see if this could work, on a scaled down version, at the elementary level too. It would be great to get these kids/parents on board a whole lot sooner!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This sounds great. It appears that the instructional assistance's role is key. Like some other comments here, how would you define "mandatory" and what are the consequences if this requirement is not satisfied? It would also appear that this strategy is most successful when embraced by teachers and students as part of the culture of the school.

Student apathy is my greatest challenge as an educator. I feel like I have appropriate expectations and give "extra" opportunities for my students to be successful, but so few seem to take advantage of it for their own benefit.

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