Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ridgewood High provides a path of success for at-risk students

NEW PORT RICHEY — Brian Green should be a 10th grader this year.

He spent his freshman year at Ridgewood High School "partying" though, and had straight F's to show for it.

"I had better things to do at the time," the soft-spoken redhead explained matter-of-factly. "I wasn't thinking about school."

That hasn't stopped Ridgewood High administrators and teachers from spending a great deal of time thinking about Green and others like him.

Faced with possible sanctions as one of the state's lowest performing schools, Ridgewood needed to find ways to identify and help teens who weren't finding success in class (not to mention not attending). And just using anecdotes to determine which kids get added services would not be good enough.

So the staff created an early warning system based on student grades, attendance, discipline referrals and other related details, with the goal of determining what level of intervention (if any) each student might need. Ridgewood officials got an early start on this because the struggling school falls under state accountability rules. Other Pasco high schools are also developing similar plans.

"We choose who needed it based on the data," assistant principal Kathy Leeper said.

For example:

• They pinpointed that just eight of the school's seniors at risk of not graduating on time had "easily correctable" grade-point issues, falling just below the required 2.0. Those students are closely monitoring their grades to make sure they don't fall short. No Ds for them.

• They learned that 29 percent of freshmen failed three or more classes last year. By creating an academy that segregates freshmen from the rest of the school and helps them make the transition to high school, Ridgewood has seen that stat almost disappear so far this year.

• They found each of last year's 98 ninth-graders who did not make it into the 10th grade this year and figured out why. Then they sent Shannon Matthews, one of the school's new graduation coaches, to shepherd those students toward success.

"I tell them, 'I'm on your side,' " Matthews said, after calling a parent to report that her child hadn't shown up for in-school suspension. "If a play calls for a run to go to the left, and you're going to the right, we're going to get you to the left. We're in it for the win."

That often means riding herd on kids who are skipping, but also taking up their cause with other teachers who can be quick to judge. The coach and students talk weekly, reviewing progress toward goals, with grades and credits at their fingertips to discuss.

Such an approach took Green aback at first.

"I didn't like her. She gave me attitude," he recalled of Matthews. "But then I kind of got where she is coming from. She's trying to help kids out, get them to where they graduate on time, get them credits, all that good stuff."

In short order, this no-nonsense approach won him over. With Matthews watching out for him, Green boosted his grades to two A's, two B's, a C and a D. He's making up credits through computer courses after school, and he's on track to be a 10th grader by Christmas.

"I miss it," Green said of the partying life. "But I gotta do what I gotta do now. I need to pass sometime. I don't want to be 20-something years old and still in high school."

He's not alone. Following the data, Leeper knows that not one of the school's repeating freshmen is failing out this year, and only one of the school's repeating sophomores is making all F's.

"We're seeing tons and tons of turnaround," Leeper said.

The graduation coaches are a key piece of the puzzle.

A year ago, Ridgewood had just one person responsible for tracking and helping at-risk students. This year, thanks to some reorganization, there's a team of six focused on the effort.

The school was able to marshal those resources in part by changing the organization of its dropout-prevention program. The program moved from a pull-out system in portables, which Leeper called "degrading," and instead put students into regular courses supported by learning labs where anyone can go for extra help.

That move, along with a federal school improvement grant, allowed Ridgewood to assign graduation coaches to all grade levels, as well as a guidance counselor focused on those students and a teacher and aide in a NovaNet credit recovery lab. That self-paced computerized program is aimed at upperclassmen who have fallen behind, and not at freshmen or sophomores.

The teachers have stopped making relaxed suggestions about how to make up credits, improve school performance and so forth, Matthews said.

"Now the tone is, 'You will.' We don't wait for them to come," she said. "Students respond to it better that way."

The school also set a new tone for in-school suspension, where students must bring lesson plans and must spend the day doing school work. It also created incentive programs for students who behave well and who achieve.

"This is a great thing that is happening at Ridgewood," said longtime teacher Catherine Adair, the graduation coach for juniors and seniors. "I think it's going to make much more of them successful."

Mike Castillo is a junior who should be a senior. He fell behind as a freshman, when he skipped all his classes and "didn't really care."

He credited the school's NovaNet teacher and lab with giving him the opportunity to get on track to graduate on time, and for the first time to qualify to play on the school football team. He, too, saw Ridgewood moving in the right direction.

"The teachers here do a good job. The majority of the reason the school is the way it is, is because of kids who are like me when I was a freshman," Castillo said.

After hearing his comments, ninth-grade graduation coach Cary Green invited Castillo to speak to struggling freshmen so they can hear a peer talk about the need to focus in school — yet another way the school is pulling together resources to turn itself around.

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

Fast facts

Who's at risk

Ridgewood High School has developed an early warning system to help teachers and administrators identify students who need extra attention before they fall too far behind. Here's how they categorize the students:

On Track: Passing all classes with C's or better, less than 10 percent absences, no discipline problems, no grade failures prior to high school

At Risk for Off Track: Failing 1-2 classes or more than 10 percent absenteeism, discipline problems or excessive tardies

Off Track: Failing three or more classes at progress report, more than 10 percent absenteeism, one or more discipline referral within the first month

Highly Off Track: Failing four or more classes at progress report, more than 10 percent absenteeism, one or more discipline referral within the first month, failed a grade prior to high school

Extremely Off Track: Failing all classes at progress report, more than 25 percent absenteeism, more than one Level 2 discipline referral, failed one or more grades prior to high school

Source: Ridgewood High School

Ridgewood High provides a path of success for at-risk students 09/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 25, 2010 2:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    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 …

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

    K12

    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]
  3. 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.
  4. Study: Pollution kills 9 million a year, costs $4.6 trillion

    World

    NEW DELHI — Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

    New Delhi’s landmark India Gate, a war memorial, is engulfed in morning smog on Friday.
  5. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.