“Failure is not an option,” is the motto of Arrowhead Park Early College High School and Medical Academy. True to their motto, Principal Gabby Alaniz and Assistant Principal Brenda Maynes knew they had to make some adjustments to programming when they realized over 30 ninth- and tenth-grade students were failing required coursework this summer.
As they quickly determined, students were failing for one or more of three primary reasons, all related to remote learning:
- Navigating courses via remote learning, particularly using Canvas;
- Struggling with academic content in a learning environment where teachers couldn’t as easily identify misunderstandings or difficulties; and
- Time-management, organization, and persistence when many students had additional responsibilities, such as taking care of siblings, because of the pandemic.
Considering a variety of options, Gabby and Brenda designed a support class for these students and substituted it for one academic course this fall. With Title I funds, they were able to hire teacher who knew the school and students well and was equipped with patience, kindness and a strong desire to see students succeed. The fact the teacher was bilingual was also a plus, as many of the failing students were English-language learners. As Gabby and Brenda expressed, choosing the right teacher was critical for the course to have the desired outcomes.
The support class was designed to address the varying needs of individuals as well as groups of students. A typical day may find the teacher spending an hour and half with a student and parent teaching them how to navigate Canvas (including where and how to locate and turn in assignments), bolstering student understanding of various subject-specific content individually or in groups, and following up with individual students to ensure they complete assignments and turn them in on time. It is truly an individualized approach to meeting the needs of all students enrolled in the class.
Although early in the year, others have already been identified as needing additional support. On a case by case basis, Arrowhead Park is finding ways to support each student. School leaders recognize that that for students to be successful academically, they must have the necessary tools and support. They also know that unusual times call for unusual approaches. The newly implemented support class is already showing promise in the form of improved student motivation, participation, and grades. Even students recognize the positive impact of the class, with several saying, “Thank you for caring about me.”
The mascot of Arrowhead Park is the trailblazer and their creed is a quote by Robert Brault, “The road to success is not a path you find, but a trail you blaze.” Arrowhead Park is living its creed, as evidenced by the creative and exceptional manner in which they’ve chosen to support their student population. For Arrowhead Park, failure is not an option