South Success Team finds improvement in students’ academic performance

South Success Team finds improvement in students’ academic performance

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Marissa Day ’14 | Managing Editor

South Success Team was implemented in September by Principal Matthew Outlaw because of a concern for students’ academic welfare. There were 212 students who had received at least one D or E during the 2011-2012 school year. These students have been working  with staff members to raise their grades.

“Every teacher is different, every student is different,” said Outlaw. “The interventions with some students are pretty significant with others to a lesser degree, but I think the teachers have made some really nice connections with students. There’s been some real bonding between teachers and some of the students they’ve worked with.”

When he was reviewing grades at the end of the semester, Outlaw noticed a significant improvement in grades from the previous school year. Of the 212, 105 students had grades ranging from A’s to C’s. However,  40 out of 212 still received failing grades, Outlaw said.

“We want all students to have an enjoyable and rewarding high school experience,” said Szmrecsanyi. “The simple expression of caring can make a world of difference in students’ lives. This initiative provides a reminder to us all that we cannot take the message for granted.”

Although the grades are something for teachers and students to be proud of, realistically, these students still have to keep their grades up and improve their performance, said art teacher Thomas Szmrecsanyi.

“People need to understand not all students will improve and not all improvement will be observable in the immediate performance data,” said Szmrecsanyi in an e-mail. “In some cases, improvement won’t occur in an observable timeframe. Effort is ongoing.”

Photo by: Will Boyce '15 | Staff Writer. “The simple expression of caring can make a world of difference in students’ lives. This initiative provides a reminder to us all that we cannot take the message for granted,” said Szmrecsyani of the creation of South Success Team.
Photo by: Will Boyce ’15 | Staff Writer. Art teacher Tom Szmrecsyani works with students in a metal class during third hour. Principal Matt Outlaw identified Szmrecsyani as a teach that had really embraced the ideas behind the South Success Team.

Szmrecsanyi initially worked with his two assigned students and found 10 more in his classes that he felt needed help. He met with each of those students individually and tried to come up with ways to improve their grades. Of those students, over half tried to improve and the others made no attempt to seek improvement, Szmrecsanyi said.

“Students who need help don’t always want it even when it is being offered,” said Szmrecsanyi. “Some students continue to slip even when all the resources are being offered. There are external factors a school staff cannot address.”

No student is going to be taken out of the program just because their grades have seen improvement first semester, Outlaw said. Although South Success has had a largely positive impact, there is still the concern students may have difficulties with second semester.

“Everybody’s staying on the list. Nobody is being removed from the list because they’ve made it one time,” said Outlaw. “We have a commitment for them for the entire year and we’re going to follow through all the way.”

Math teacher Kristie Philliben found it effective working in the background with students. While she interacted with her students and their other teachers, Philliben focused on forming a relationship with her two students.

“I really just kind of focused on them a little bit and followed up with their teachers and e-mailed them when I saw their grades slipping or heard about their grades slipping,” said Philliben. “So I just kind of kept in contact with those teachers and watched out for (students) sort of in the background. I wasn’t too much in their face.”

Based on the students still struggling this year, the administration hopes that by looking at various aspects of a student’s life instead of just their grades, they will be able to find strategies to help them achieve success, Outlaw said.

“How we identify students for next year is going to be a little bit different,” said Outlaw. “It’s going to be a little bit more of a comprehensive effort; we just have some new measures that we’re going to be using to truly get to the core of what the problems are.”

Photo by Will Boyce '15 | Staff Writer. “I hope that from first semester just kind of knowing that there’s someone watching out for (students), that they feel a little more confident in what they do second semester," said Philliben.
Photo by Will Boyce ’15 | Staff Writer. “I hope that from first semester just kind of knowing that there’s someone watching out for them (students), that they feel a little more confident in what they do second semester,” said Philliben.

One change Philliben would like to see next year for the program is emphasis on student-teacher relationships. She noticed that some teachers were getting students who they didn’t know and never had in a class before, making it difficult for students and teachers to interact on a day-to-day basis.

“It was tough for some teachers because they did get some students who were not in their classes so it was tough to touch base with them, where my two students were in one hour (of mine), which was nice,” she said. “So I think that could be a definite improvement.”

Philliben hopes teachers can be a supporting figure for students by letting them know teachers are approachable, she said.

“I hope that from first semester just kind of knowing that there’s someone watching out for them (students), that they feel a little more confident in what they do second semester, but I know, especially in math class, material gets a little tougher so it might take a little work on their part and our part to stay on top of them,” said Philliben.

While there is still some issues that need to be addressed by South Success Team for next year, Szmrecsanyi said the original message of the program cannot be lost. Students need to be able to enjoy high school, but have to realize that the program is something to be taken seriously.

“We want all students to have an enjoyable and rewarding high school experience,” said Szmrecsanyi. “The simple expression of caring can make a world of difference in students’ lives. This initiative provides a reminder to us all that we cannot take the message for granted.”

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