Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Learning labs' extra help keeps at-risk students in school

WESLEY CHAPEL — Nicole Bostick could have spent her lunch period in the school cafeteria, eating a cheeseburger or a buffalo chicken salad without giving her homework a thought.

Instead, Bostick, a 16-year-old sophomore, spent the noon hour in Wesley Chapel High's learning center, poring over an essay about whether students should be allowed to use cell phones in school.

"I'd rather get my grades up," Bostick said of her almost daily decision to forego lunch for time in the center, also known as learning labs in other county high schools. "My grades aren't that good. I'd rather take responsibility than hang out with friends."

She wasn't alone. As the minutes ticked by, more than a dozen students trickled in, all with one goal in mind — getting a little individualized attention on the work that vexed them, be it economics, algebra, Spanish or whatever.

Learning labs are almost deceptively simple: Certified teachers spend time in a large room filled with tables, comfortable chairs, computers and books, waiting for students who need help to come and ask for it.

But in the two years the Pasco school district has used them, the labs have become a top tool in the district's dropout prevention effort. Ramon Suarez, who oversees graduation enhancement programs, credited their implementation as key to getting Pasco off the state's watch list for too many dropouts among special needs students — not to mention a 40 percent decrease in the overall dropout rate.

"It's about making connections," Suarez said. "That's the No. 1 reason many students are dropping out. ... They isolate themselves from school. This helps them connect with teachers and find a place where they can get help."

That would be help any time they need it, including during class. During the 2007-08 academic year, 8,578 of the 14,224 student visits to Wesley Chapel High's lab came with classroom teacher passes.

"The students know it's always open," said Bridget White, Wesley Chapel's special education department chair, who helps run the lab. "They can come any time, and they know someone is going to help them."

Some teachers are assigned to the center. Others volunteer. The buy-in has only grown as educators have come to see the value the learning labs provide.

One of the primary reasons for their success, Suarez said, is because students get assistance when they need it, rather than having to wait hours, days or perhaps weeks for a remedial lesson.

"Some struggle with the way their teachers teach," said Pam McLaughlin, a student support assistance program teacher. "They just need an extra person who may teach differently or provide one-on-one (help). ... As long as they use our service, it definitely helps."

That's critical for students like Bostick, who has contemplated whether to remain in school.

"I was like, 'I'm done,' " she admitted. "I was thinking about dropping out. But I didn't want to disappoint my mom and dad and sister. I wanted to change peoples' minds from thinking I can't do anything right in life. ... I come in here every day."

So does freshman Jessica Baeza, 14, who comes seeking assistance on science, English and math beyond what her classroom instructors offer.

"The teachers, they don't really explain it that well, so I come in here. They explain it easier," she said as she worked on some algebra equations. "I'm a person where you have to break it down and show me step by step."

Senior Kenroy Shaw said the teachers in the learning lab "really saved me." He was working on his senior project, yet had fallen hopelessly behind. The teachers in the lab helped him with the researching, "I pulled it off and actually got a good grade."

Once upon a time, Shaw, 17, said he would go to the media center to study. But he figured there must be a better place to go. Then he heard about the learning lab, and started making a daily trek there during his lunch period.

Now he swears by it — and he tells his friends.

"It really helps," Shaw said. "I wish I had a learning center at home."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Learning labs' extra help keeps at-risk students in school 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 11:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.