Changes in study hall options hope to help raise CF students’ grades

While students enjoy sleeping in on Tuesday mornings and sipping at their warm Starbucks lattes, teachers and administrators have been working to try to increase the rate of student success.

A dramatic problem teachers and administrators have taken notice of at Cedar Falls High School is the growing amount of students on failing lists. The root of this problem lies not with students being incapable or lacking the skills to pass, but in students neglecting their work.

Associate Principal Dana Deines has been working to help solve this problem by finding a way to get students to complete work during the day to achieve the goal of seeing more students pass. “As you may be aware from our late start Tuesdays, our school has taken on a professional development initiative to create a PLC ( Professional Learning Communities) at CFHS. With this initiative we have a focus on learning, collaboration and results. Our overall goal is to help all students learn at high levels. It would be disingenuous for us to set this goal without creating a system of interventions to give struggling learners additional time and support for learning during the school day,”

Deines said. “We have been looking to find additional intervention time during the school day to  help all our students be successful. Each grading period we see many students failing to complete assignments and as a result under perform and/or fail classes.”

To solve this problem, students will be placed in larger study halls during the school day and only students failing a class with teacher recommendation will be required to do their work in smaller study halls with more individualized attention until they receive passing grades. “Teachers will use this support time to assist students with their academic requirements. Our idea is to have small study halls available each period to focus our academic support with students that may be failing class(es) due to incomplete assignments. We have set a goal to decrease the number of failing grades at our school,” Deines said.

Susan Langan, department head of guidance at Cedar Falls High School expects positive results from this new intervention program. “I think it’ll be really good for the kids once they realize they can get the extra help and we have really great teachers to work with them,” Langan said. “We’re just trying to get students extra support and more motivation to get some of their work done to increase their achievement.”

Math teacher Ron Hoofnagle said he believes the new study halls will benefit many students, including the ones that are already passing who take the initiative to get extra help. “This change is being done because many students within the school who are in trouble academically are having that trouble due to not doing their school or homework. We are trying to give them additional assistance and attention to help them get that work done. Rather than the penalty for skipping your homework being a zero, the penalty will be that you do your homework,” Hoofnagle said.

He doesn’t see a problem with the new study hall arrangements.“Students who need extra help will still be able to get it. I do think we need to ensure it’s clear for these students how to get help during their study halls, and that it’s simple, so they’re not likely to get frustrated and skip the help,” Hoofnagle said.

Starting this week, the new study hall program will begin. This innovative change may seem sudden to students, but the idea has been in the making for the past year. “We have been looking to pilot this large /small study hall process for the past year. Our building  leadership team has worked to move this concept forward.  We are now ready to try this intervention and to see if there are benefits to continue and/or expand this intervention in the future,” Deines said.

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