EHS program gives students Choice

Enumclaw High School is in its third session of CORE/Choice, an enrichment and intervention program school leaders are giving a go.

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for 25 minutes between second and third period, students participate in the program.

CORE stands for Counting on Reaching Excellence and is designed for students with D or F grades. These students have been assigned to a class for instructional support and tutoring. Those who raise their grades turn over to Choice.

Students who have demonstrated achievement in all classes of a C or better are assigned to Choice and can use their 25 minutes of time any way they choose, for example, getting additional help from teachers, attending a guided study hall or AP seminar or accessing computer labs and the career center.

Students grades are evaluated every three weeks.

According to EHS Principal Jill Burnes, the program stems from the district's Professional Learning Communities goals: How will we respond if our students don't learn? and how will we enrich and extend the learning for student who have learned it?

She said research found kids don't show up before or after school, and many students are capable of being good students, they're just disengaged.

Leaders are not only hoping to see Ds and Fs disappear, but want to increase As and Bs, too.

The first session, based on last year's grades, pulled 675 students into CORE, of those 317 were freshmen who were required to take a transition and study skills class.

About 333 students were tabbed as CORE students during the second session, which ended Oct. 7. That's about 24 percent of the student population. Burnes anticipated the number would grow for the third session, which began Oct. 12, and it did.

Burnes presented the latest data to the school board at its Oct. 18 meeting. She said 498 students were listed in CORE this session, which ends Thursday, and 954 students in Choice.

"We're hoping to catch kids a lot earlier," said Burnes, who notes she hand schedules each CORE kid.

Of those Choice students about 100 head to the library, about 300 are off to the commons, 130 opt for peer tutoring, and the remainder are catching up on advanced placement classes or taking advantage of the extended time in classes like art, shop and newspaper.

Teachers tried to provide out-of-the-box extended learning opportunities for students like a stress reduction class centered on test anxiety or a political issues discussion group. The latter did not draw enough student interest.

The program hits the ends of the spectrum, but it's the remainder sitting in study hall who are sticking in some parents' craw, like Ted DeVol, who doesn't care to see kids out of class wasting time.

"The books are open, but when you look really close they're not doing the work," he said on a visit to the school's commons during the CORE/Choice period.

DeVol thinks it takes classroom time away from students.

He compares it to producing a pull-rod suspension for a motorcycle, something his company does. The process starts with a chunk of metal, the student. Each time it is put through the shaping process, an instructional classroom with a teacher, it gets closer to its final form.

"If the spindle is not cutting this thing you will never have a finished part," DeVol said.

He figures students are out of class 25 minutes, three days a week, and that adds up to about 2,550 minutes a school year. Add to that the 75 minutes they are out each Friday for Professional Learning Communities and it's a loss of more than 10 days a year.

"They just keep taking more time away from the kids," said DeVol, who has three children who have graduated, one who is an EHS senior and an elementary school student.

Burnes said CORE/Choice takes less time than the defunct advisory program the high school tried a few years ago.

"Instructional time is important to us," Burnes said. "We don't want to waste time."

The largest Choice is study hall and she admits it needs tweaking. Elective classes draw interest, she said, but content classes were duds. School leaders have been scheduling visits from college recruiters during Choice time and letting clubs use the time to meet rather than gathering after school.

"We're trying to offer flexibility and choice for kids to take control of their own education," Burnes said.

Similar programs, she said, have proven successful. She cited Tumwater High as one of them.

"We are going to be the first ones to be accountable," Burnes said. "Be patient give us some time.

"We can't do nothing."

CORE and Choice are holding teachers accountable, she noted. Since the program is data-driven, grade books have to be current. Burnes said she has access to more data now than before and by Thursday, she'll have a good idea of what's working and what's not.

"We have to keep trying something," Burnes said. "They're the same questions we were asking during reinvention; all kids are not acheiveing here."

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