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Model Practice Narrative

A for American1. School’s Model Program/Practice

During the 2016-2017 school year, a group of staff members organized a study team to explore the adoption of an Advisory-like program. A decade prior, an Advisory period had been a part of the American HS schedule, but was abandoned following criticism by staff and students that it was an ineffective use of school instructional time due to poor organization and a lack of clarity to its purpose. The staff members interested in bringing such a program back centered on two ideas: First, how can time be allocated during the school day to allow for intervention and opportunities for all our students. Second, how can such a program be adopted that avoided the errors of the previous schedule. In order to ensure the success of any program, the working group needed to obtain extensive feedback from staff, students, and parents, as well as a study of available models.

The input from staff, students, and parents came from several sources. Teachers who were staff members a decade ago were asked to share their viewpoints on why Advisory had not been a success. After this analysis was completed, the study team asked staff members what they would like to see in a new version of this program. In workshops before and after school, teacher volunteers met to map out what were the essential components of any new proposal. Input from students came from a survey that was developed by the study team. Students responded with overwhelming support for the idea of building in time during the day when they could work with their teachers on an as needed basis. Parent input came from PTSA and Site Council meetings. Like the students, parents appreciated the idea that individualized time for students could be found during the school day.

Through one of our teachers, we learned of a program at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, CA, called Flex where meeting time was built into their schedule three times a week. A group of American HS staff members visited Fremont HS to observe their process. Their Flex time included all the components the study group was looking for – student choice, including time to work with teachers and enrichment opportunities, and time for direct student intervention during the school day. Additionally, Fremont HS was using a computer program to track student movement.

Following the model from Fremont HS, the study team from American HS put together a proposal for the entire staff.   The creation of the proposal was driven by teachers and counselors intent on making systematic changes for student success.  The proposal took into account the input from staff, students, and parents. In March 2017, the American HS staff voted to build in time during the school day twice a week beginning in the 2017-2018 school year. It was designated as ‘FLEX Period’.

As part of the adoption, American HS staff determined that the use of a computer program to track student movement would be a necessary component of the implementation. We decided to use the Flex Time App from TeachMore, the same program used at Fremont HS. American HS admin worked with the FUSD Technology Department to gain approval for use of the Flex Time App while also budgeting funds for the license and equipment necessary to run this program.

FLEX Period began during the 2017-2018 school year. FLEX Period is a 54-minute period on Wednesdays and Thursdays for students to meet with teachers, school counselors, and other AHS staff members. FLEX Period allows all students a chance to get extra support and expand their learning. This class period provides students with the flexibility to meet with teachers and other staff members during the school day. It gives all students time to get assistance with challenges, dive deeper into topics of interest, work on group projects, seek help with college and job applications, and much more.

During the FLEX Period, all students are required to be in a classroom or other designated spaces. All students must be engaged in academic work the entire period. Attendance for FLEX Period is mandatory, just like attendance for any other class.

The essential resources necessary for the FLEX Period are mostly technology-based. American HS purchases a yearly site license for use of the Flex Time App. This student tracking program is one of many available, but American HS staff members like its ease of use. In order to access the program website, American HS staff need access to a computer. All FUSD teachers have been issued a laptop for school use for several years. American HS also purchased a bar code scanner for each staff member to scan students into the program in order to track FLEX Period attendance. All students are issued a student ID with a bar code. If students forget their ID, their individual number can be added manually by the teacher. While no additional staffing was necessary as part of the adoption of FLEX Period, clerical staff needed to learn and implement new routines in order to ensure FLEX Period attendance was consolidated with the attendance tracking of all students.  Procedures for ensuring the timely submission of substitute attendance during the FLEX Period also needed to be developed.  

The goal of FLEX Period is to provide time for students to receive increased support during the school day. FLEX Period was developed in response to student and parent requests for increased intervention time and enrichment opportunities for all students at our school. Teachers and students were concerned about the inconsistent opportunities for intervention during other times (e.g., at lunch or after school) due to busy schedules and other commitments.  FLEX Period allows for all students to have opportunities to get additional help from teachers, work on group projects, and make up assignments/exams during the school day.

This program provides opportunities for students to seek support during their school day. Our parents and students were struggling to find time to meet with teachers for support with confusing concepts, make-up tests, and schedule meetings. This was a particular challenge for our athletes as they are often in practice or away at games after school. Allowing for intervention time during the school day provides our students and staff with time to connect for re-teaching and all manner of interventions. Since the adoption of a new bell schedule in the 2017-2018 school year, FLEX Period has become a time teachers and students expect to meet to get caught up on missing work or seek out the extra assistance that is needed.

All students are provided the opportunity to reflect on the best place to attend each FLEX to maximize their progress and seek their individualized interventions.  They can sign up for a specific teacher during FLEX easily from their phones or a computer.  Teachers are able to pre-assign students to their FLEX Period if they see a student struggling with concepts in their class.  This is a fast and direct means of intervention for struggling students.

Students within our Special Education program are allowed the same opportunities as the rest of our student population to choose the best location to spend their FLEX time. Case managers set aside time each week to review with their students the best recommendations for where FLEX Period should be spent. Assisting students in planning how best to utilize their time and ask for help is a learning goal for many special education students. Many of the students in our English Learner program utilize this time to collaborate on assignments within the classes of our EL teachers and practice self-advocacy in a new language.

FLEX Period has allowed American HS staff the opportunity to meet with students with social-emotional and behavioral needs without taking them away from instruction. An English Learner social group regularly meets during FLEX Period. Our School Psychologist has organized a social skills group for targeted Special Education students that meets weekly during FLEX Period. In each of these examples, students are provided with special skills support to aid with their recent transition to the United States, or to practice skills to help them navigate the social challenges of being a high school student.

In the year-and-a-half since FLEX Period was adopted at American HS, students and staff have seen its benefit by providing individualized time for assistance. For FLEX Period to fulfill its purpose, staff has worked to develop systematic interventions where targeted groups of students are identified for assistance. Goal 3 of the Fremont USD indicates that each school must implement strategies to involve students in their learning and interventions to eliminate barriers to success. American HS wrote the following school goal into our SPSA (School Plan for Student Achievement) plan to address the LCAP Plan:

Designated staff members will hold academic and behavioral intervention meetings with students meeting the following criteria:

  • Each student who is not on track for graduation based on the previous quarter grades will meet with a designated certificated staff member to develop an academic plan.
  • A behavioral intervention meeting with a designated staff member will be completed monthly for each student who has been sent to the SRC two or more times and/or has been suspended.

FLEX Period is an important time for this work to be done. Designated staff members include administrators, counselors, designated intervention teachers, and members of the COST team (Coordination of Services Team). During FLEX Period, these staff members are able to meet with students individually or in groups to discuss strategies for improving grades or behavioral interventions.  Behavioral meetings during FLEX Period can be a required intervention for students in lieu of suspension for certain offenses.

In addition to these school-wide efforts, individualized departments have developed intervention programs. The Math and Science Departments have developed peer tutoring FLEX Periods where a teacher and older students in advanced classes work with younger ones to review tests and assignments. Other departments have held intervention sessions during FLEX Period in which teachers combine their students with those from other teachers to review essentials concepts and standards.  This approach ensures that essential standards are being retaught to students struggling with certain concepts.  Whether it is an individual student receiving extra assistance from a teacher or a large group identified by specific metrics, the goal remains to increase the number of students progressing towards graduation.

FLEX Period must be approved on a yearly basis. The staff votes each Spring on whether to continue including FLEX Period as part of the bell schedule. If approved, FLEX Period is identified in the American HS SPSA plan as one of the means to achieve our intervention goal. LCAP funds are allocated towards the purchase of the Flex Time App yearly site license. The SPSA plan is written and approved by the American HS Site Council, a body composed of staff, parents, and students.

2. Implementation & Monitoring of Model Program/Practice

Prior to implementation of FLEX Period for the 2017-2018 school year, the study group leading the adopting of this change gathered feedback from all stakeholders - teachers, parents, students and other school staff. We continued to assess stakeholder opinions throughout the 2017-2018 school year, as we wanted to ensure that the program evolves to effectively meet the needs of our student population. In order to regularly assess the implementation of FLEX Period, a FLEX Period Advisory Committee was formed to meet monthly in order to discuss issues that arose throughout the year. This committee provided an opportunity for staff to work through problems and avoid the issues from the previous Advisory Period.

At each step, American HS parents have been able to provide feedback on FLEX Period through PTSA and Site Council meetings.  Utilizing surveys created with google forms has elicited detailed feedback from the parent community.   American HS staff works with our parents to encourage their students to utilize FLEX Period strategically, so that they are able to maximize opportunities for intervention and additional support. Furthermore, counselors and administrators can convey to parents where their students are going for each FLEX Period during individual meetings.

Based on the comments shared with American HS teachers and admin, parents have been very supportive of FLEX Period. Many have expressed appreciation that there is time available during the school day. Parents have commented that this time has lowered the stress level of their students at home. One parent specifically said that their student athlete was getting more sleep and was not as stressed, which the parent attributed directly to FLEX.

When communicating how FLEX Period works, the FLEX Period Advisory Committee has developed presentations for students and for staff. An important component of FLEX Period is that it is utilized by everyone on campus. For students, the school year begins with a FLEX Period orientation. During the first two FLEX Periods, students are given a presentation on how FLEX Period works and what the expectations are for their conduct and how they should be spending their time. There is a consistent message that all staff reiterate to students, “These are two hours a week available to help you be a better student - use this time to your advantage.” Students are held accountable for their attendance through check-in on the Flex Time App. FLEX Period attendance is treated the same as other classes and students face the same consequences as skipping any other class. For the AHS staff, professional development time is allocated before school in order to review the FLEX Period expectations. The FLEX Advisory Committee, with representation from all departments on campus, created the guidelines and expectations for staff members for their use of FLEX Period.

Evaluating the program effectiveness from the perspective of parents comes from input at regular parent meetings and survey data. The School Site Council and the PTSA meet monthly and parents are able to voice their opinions on school procedures, including FLEX Period. Since implementation, parents have been vocally supportive of FLEX Period. The School Site Council is the body that approves the yearly SPSA Plan, which includes FLEX Period as a part of its goals. Survey data collected from parents have also indicated that parents appreciate the inclusion of FLEX Period in the school day.

To monitor the instructional effectiveness of FLEX Period, American HS staff uses several standing committees where relevant data is reviewed. The FLEX Period Advisory Committee is composed of department representatives and during the first year of the FLEX period at AHS, the committee met monthly. During our second year of implementation, it has only been necessary to meet bi-monthly.  This group reviews how FLEX Period is run and gives staff an opportunity for logistical changes to take place so that things run more efficiently.  Another group that helps to monitor the efficacy of FLEX Period is the Instructional Leadership Team, composed of department chairs and the admin team.  Most American HS curricular decisions are made by this group in coordination with districtwide curriculum committees. Within our Instructional Leadership Team, we have used a variety of academic data to plan further academic supports for struggling students.  During ILT, individual departments discuss how FLEX Period is used in their subject areas for targeted interventions.

Teachers of similar classes have developed interventions during FLEX Period for their classes within their departments. The Math Department has implemented organized peer tutoring run by teachers during FLEX Period. Math teachers have evaluated the effectiveness of student support from the peer tutoring by observing grades for those students tutored on their next test.  Another example of peer tutoring has been utilized by the Science Department.  The Science Department designed an intervention for struggling students in Living Earth by having AP Biology students come in during a specific FLEX Period. During this FLEX Period, AP Biology students provide peer tutoring with the assistance of a Living Earth teacher.

3. Results of the Model Program/Practice

As the academic achievement of American HS students has increased in recent years as measured by the CAASPP test, it has become a priority to more closely monitor the academic achievement of students who are not progressing at the expected rate. Several staff committees of teachers and admin meet regularly to strategize ways to improve the overall performance of all American HS students. As a part of this group’s efforts, staff have explored methods to use FLEX Period to intervene.

Student, parent, and staff surveys have provided critical information to shape the program. All stakeholders report positively on the program and have offered insightful tips on how we can continue to improve. All survey data is reviewed by a diverse staff panel who determine how best to implement changes.

Comprehensive data on the quantity of Ds and Fs in our individual populations has been collected since the FLEX Period began. Spreadsheets and graphs of quarter and semester academic data are analyzed within the Guiding Coalition and the Instructional Leadership Team. From this data analysis, takeaways are documented and shared with the whole staff. By asking departments to reflect on interventions that are being provided during FLEX Period for students who are not mastering content, teachers are better able to serve all of our students.

In order to demonstrate improved student performance, grade data is tracked on a quarterly basis. Similar practices are used to collect data for both targeted and non-targeted student groups. Once the data has been collected for all students, further disaggregation of target groups provides insights for progress. By comparing the progress of our target intervention populations to that of the progress of the whole student body, we can make judgements about the effectiveness of our work.

In order to continually improve FLEX Period, data from several sources is considered by the Instructional Leadership Team, FLEX Period Advisory Committee, and individual departments. American HS staff review departmental intervention practices regularly in monthly department meetings. Opportunities for sharing students for intervention or enrichment activities during FLEX Period are planned during this time. New presentations of grade data each quarter provide an impetus for the committee to make systemic change and for the teachers to make change at the departmental and individual levels.