High school is a phase of immense personal growth for students. While it's an exciting time filled with new experiences and challenges, it also poses unique challenges for some students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of high schoolers struggle with academics, struggle with reading or writing at grade level, or struggle with meeting deadlines. Adding to that struggle, most high school students who fall behind may never catch up to their peers and eventually drop out of high school. Struggling high schoolers may face challenges in one or more areas of life, which can result in learning difficulties. This article explores the five best strategies to help struggling high school students so they can reach their potential.
Identify Struggling Students
By identified, I mean by name and picture. Too often,, we lump all students into a spreadsheet, offering no actual means of identity. The students become numbers on a page. When students are identified by name or other demographic, they begin to take ownership of their learning. Once students have been identified by name and picture- create a data room, or "war" room, is how I termed it. In this "war" room, each student and their historical data is posted for all staff to view.
Assign Mentors to Each Student
As educators, we know time is an asset in high demand. But, by using creative scheduling during the school day, teams of staff can be used to mentor and follow those students throughout the day. You have acknowledged that not all students have the same struggles by providing mentoring. Find out precisely the students' struggles and allocate the necessary resources for each student. Fourth- carve out time during the school day to work with those students academically.
Provide Targeted Interventions
When schools provide interventions, they are often based on teacher instruction or lack thereof. When interventions are targeted, the mentors have identified each student and can verbally explain each student's strengths and weaknesses. Most states have a list of standards each student is expected to know and meet by the end of a particular grade. Know those standards! In Texas, they are called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). What's unique about Texas is that rigor is built into the TEKS. Simply put, there is no need to scramble to identify what needs to be taught- just specify the particular TEK a student or groups of students are struggling with and provide interventions based on those parameters.
As a school administrator, you have many hats to wear. While ensuring students are safe in your building is of the utmost importance, there is no task direr than student learning. When conducting professional learning, school administrators should list all the common TEKS their students struggle to acquire. You will often learn that it isn't a learning issue but a teaching issue. Once teachers realize that "how" they are teaching directly affects student mastery, the professional learning sessions become useful because now teachers can strategize and plan accordingly.
Schools are blamed for becoming "testing factories" and not producing creative thinkers. I would ask- what company doesn't test a product before releasing it to the public? A car's speedometer may list top speed at 120 mph, but most cars never reach those speeds on a regular road. But, the car's manufacturer has tested that car's speed and will stand by the fact that if you get top speed, the vehicle will perform well. Testing students is no different. When students go through these instructional phases, it is essential to know how they are performing and adjust accordingly. If students show marked improvement, their level of assistance will also change.
There are many factors outside of a struggling student's control, such as being in the wrong class, having too few class offerings for their interests, or having a teacher who is too busy with disciplinary issues to provide adequate instruction. A student's environment can significantly impact their ability to learn. By identifying and being proactive in your school, you will identify and adjust a student's setting before they reach the level of dropping out of high school. Trust me- it works!