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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

Stacie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently participating in an online course and we have spent some time discussing the impact that high expectaions can have on our students. I found that your article touched upon one way that teacher expectations can have a positive impact on our students. Even though I teach at an elementary level, the strategy that you are using at your school is one that can be modified and implemented across grade levels. I also like the parent involement piece that this stragegy includes. We all know that parents and teachers are partners in a child's education and I like that your suggestions foster that relationship.

Jennifer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I absolutely love the idea of a mandatory study session at the higher grade levels. I teach first grade and I too do not accept failure as an option. I know that what I am doing in the lower grades ultimately affects a child in the later years. I do not agree with pushing on a child and assuming that he or she will just "magically" catch up. I think just as we do not accept failure that we should not accept pushing them on. I have had a few first graders who do not meet grade level expectations all year long. In my eyes they should be held back at this age as they are young. A repeated year will be beneficial now rather than later. When I have a struggling student we have an intervention plan called SAT (i.e. student assistance team). I refer them to the team (assistant principal, school psychologist, special ed. teacher, parent of child, and myself) get the paperwork started. We sit down together and discuss the particular child and his or her progress. We talk with the parents and pull the child's records. We come up with new interventions to try in the classroom and if the interventions do not prove successful after about a month or two then the student is tested. If they qualify then he or she will receive special services (i.e. resource). It seems it is very hard in my school / district to hold a child back. If they qualify for services most of the time the child goes on to the next grade level. I do not accept failure. I set expectations for my students very high and we work at till we get it. I do everything in "my" power that I can to help a child in my classroom. I enjoyed this blog. Thanks for sharing everyone!

Rebekah Crane's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am taking a college class and have just recently been reading various information about not accepting failure. I have started this practice with my 5th grade social studies class, and have seen positive results so far. Some of the students have caught on that they will have to redo projects or assingments until they are correct and have begun completing these assignments the first time assigned. Having an after school maditory study session is not fesable at my school, but I have found other ways to have the students do or redo assignments.

Rebekah Crane's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I applaud you for trying to help your sixth grader. I know that it is often difficult to motivate a child that age. The main thing that I can tell you is not to give up. If you continue to push your child, he will thank you in the long run. Also, don't stop pestering the teachers. I know that you sometimes feel like they are not listening, but some teachers need constant reminders in order to focus on your child. If you ask them over and over how you can help or what your child needs to be doing, they will eventually get the message and try to come up with a plan.

Dawn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Not accepting failure is a wonderful idea, but what would the grade be? Would you give the student full credit for the assignment or would they earn partial credit? My next question is how does this prepare them for life? There is not always a "do over" in the real world. The real world is filled with consequences.

neetugarg37's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi, there are many ways to convert failure in to success so in my views students do not accept the failure.They wants to know the reasons of failure and remove them. Students took the responsibility of their success it was a positive step towards the success.
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neetu
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Drug Intervention-Drug Intervention

Lori's picture
Lori
urban high school in Springfield, OH

I'm so frustrated with the high number of failing students, that I'm online today looking for some inspiration. The idea posted above sounds good, but here's my reality in an urban school. Students refuse to stay after school. We provide tutors during the day, and I constantly offer my time before and after school and during my planning and lunch periods. I work in an urban school with a high percentage of low to poverty level income. Students make it to high school based on their age, and many read and write at elementary levels. They possess little self control and ability to focus. I use a very long list of interventions to help students succeed, but in the end, I still have students who absolutely and with much determination choose to fail. Failure is not an option in my class, but these are kids who don't believe in absolutes or rules. They come to school to avoid truancy issues and while there, they often sleep or play during class or disturb others (and I'm not allowed to get them out of class). They do not have the remedial classes they need, because some bleeding-hearts believes that remedial classes will lower their self esteem. Many students don't believe that education is worthwhile, as they have bought into the ridiculous idea that money is all that matters in life. The best way to make money or have what you want is to steal it or sell drugs.

My recent teacher preparation program did, indeed, offer many opportunities to explore engaging methods and motivation strategies. I read about at-risk students, and I've tried many strategies. The fact is, though, that our schools cannot afford many at-risk strategies. They need smaller class sizes, and we have the largest in urban schools. They need more differentiation for the lack of basic skills. It doesn't matter if you are in a public or private school, we cannot affort to tailor an individualized education plan to every students' wishes (whims).

We don't require accountability of our students on a large scale. We don't instill a hunger in them for an education that could be taken away if they don't work with it. In my school, most students do not view education as a privilege or right; it is a task forced upon them by some evil "they."

Our own standards create a vicious system of failing to reach failing students. For example, because we require 4 years of English in Ohio, those who fail 9th grade English take 9th and 10th grade English during their next year. (They can't afford to take summer school--although many have expensive cell phones, which is much more valuable to them than education--and we don't want them to take too many years to complete school.) I had one student who wanted to graduate on time this year who was in my 10th grade English class while also taking 11th and 12th grade English at the same time. To make matters worse, those who could use a "study skills" class, tutoring period, or other remedy, don't have study hall or a free period available to them due to their packed schedule from repeated failures, i.e. 2 English classes, 2 math classes, 2 science classes, etc.

School administrators, state officials, and others who comment on education scream "differentiate," "engage," "provide relevant and meaningful activities," and other such rhetoric, which are great ideas, but they continue to fail in classes where a single group of 30+ students range from 3rd grade to 12th grade reading levels and 0 to 100% motivation.

The answer is not to verbally beat up and blame teachers for all these failures, yet that's what we constantly face. This year, under new administration, we face the threat of being fired or "written up" if principals walk in our rooms where students sleep or act up. I can walk around my class and try to wake up students, but I cannot control them like Pavlovian subjects. In a school where we have at least 7 "principal" administrators, we are not allowed to send a student out of class for disruption unless they are physically or verbally abusive. Those who could get an education are denied a great opportunity due to those who don't value education. As a result, we are declining in education quality--not because of bad teachers, not entirely because of parents or poverty, not because of lack of money in the district, but because of the exponential effect of so many factors failing at the same time.

In our school handbook, we have statements that indicate that every teacher has a right to teach, and every student has a right to learn. We do not honor those ideas; we do not support them; we all fail as a society, as a result.

myself - 22784's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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Jennifer Robichaux's picture
Jennifer Robichaux
9-12 Langauge Arts

I noticed that many of the above posts have the same questions that I have, such as what happens when students do not show? Transportation etc. Is there anyone who can answer these questions? I am very curious to see how this works and would like to know more.

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