Freshmen Success Teams:  Substantial research shows that the first year in high school has an outsize impact on whether students eventually graduate because it is a critical time for students’ perceptions of themselves as learners.  This year, thanks to funding from Enterprise Holdings Inc., every high school has launched a Freshman Success Team which is devoted to ensuring that 9thgraders begin their high school careers strongly. Each school has created a Freshman Success Team and plan that’s unique to its school culture.  At Gateway STEM, teachers check in regularly with the same freshmen, “we are addressing issues we see with freshman earlier and they are getting more support than they used to,” explains Assistant Principal Ashley McMichael.  At Clyde C. Miller Academy, the freshmen have their own wing of the school. Monthly birthday celebrations for the freshmen and a bulletin board that recognizes their accomplishments makes them “feel honored and loved” and weekly meetings to discuss each freshmen’s “glows and grows,” have been very successful, says Tina Gross, a teacher at Clyde C. Miller on the Freshmen Success Team.

SLPS’ Freshman Success Teams are based on a successful track record of a similar effort in the Chicago Public Schools, done in collaboration with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.  Their work shows that whether students graduate from high school is largely determined during their freshman year.  Students who are on-track at the end of ninth grade are nearly three times more likely to graduate from high school than students who are off-track. Freshman are considered “on track” if they earn at least five full-year course credits and no more than one semester “F” in a core course in their first year of high school

After visiting with leaders of Chicago Public Schools’ effort, the SLPS Office of College and Career Readiness launched the Freshman Success Teams.  Each month, the Office of CCR sends schools an easy to read dashboard of how each 9th grader is faring.  Teams look at the report and develop strategies for celebrating successes and pro-actively addressing challenges. “Our ultimate goal is to prepare students for future success, whether that be in college or careers, but it starts with them getting a solid start in high school.  The Freshmen Success Teams are helping to ensure that all 9th graders know they have a team behind them as they make a big leap in independence,” explains Dr. Beth Bender, Associate Superintendent for College and Career Readiness.

Although this effort is just launched, data from this year shows a decrease in the percent of students “off track”.  For more on the research this effort is based, click here.

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