Wrapping Up Research and Summer

As I mentioned in my last post (ages ago), I’ve kept myself crazy busy this summer, BUT it’s all paying off. I’m wrapping up my Action Research   course/project, which I’ll talk about more below, and I’m in the thick of semester planning. In addition to all that, I’m working on getting a short story published in a literary magazine and I’ve written a guest blog (which will be published August 13th) for WVTCE. In fact, I’ll be featured regularly on the WVCTE blog now, as they’ve invited me to become a contributing writer! So, while I would love another month to continue the work I’ve been doing this summer, I feel like I’ve made some significant progress with curriculum as well as with my longterm professional goals.

I have been doing some significant research and work on improving (home)work completion among high school students. My report, nearly fifty pages in length, culminates in the design of  a holistic student accountability system I am intending to implement this Fall. If anyone is interested in the full findings and literature review, certainly feel free to comment or email me at sarah@evolutionizingeducation.com, and I will send the whole package your way. However, for the purposes of this blog, I will simply hit the high points that informed the student accountability system.

In reviewing the literature on strategies to improve (home)work completion, two things became clear: the necessity of viewing completion and non-completion as behavior and the implementation of a multi-component program to address the behavior of non-completion and promote the behaviors of completion and accuracy. In examining various strategies implemented in the studies consulted for commonalities of effectiveness, the components necessary to include in a successful program are self-regulation, which includes goal setting and self-monitoring; allotment of additional time in which to complete work; and a clearly defined incentives/rewards and consequences system.

Building off of research, surveys and interviews with teachers, and components already in place but either underutilized not being utilized at all at the high school, I devised a more holistic policy/procedure to propose for implementation:

  • Schoolwide Missing/Late Work Policy: If a student present in class the day work is assigned fails to submit the assignment by the original deadline, the student may submit the assignment one day late for 75% credit, two days late for 50% credit, and it will be recorded as a zero after that.
  • Mandatory Noon Tutorial: Students with a missing assignment will be required to attend noon tutorial either in the assigning teacher’s classroom or one of the designated noon tutorial classrooms the day the assignment was taken up(or, if the class period occurs after lunch, the student will be assigned noon tutorial the next school day). If the assignment is completed and submitted during the noon tutorial session, the assignment will only receive a 10% deduction for tardiness. If a student fails to attend the assigned noon tutorial, they will receive lunch detention for the first offense, after school detention for the second offense, and Saturday school for the third offense.
  • Mandatory After-School (or 5thBlock) Tutorial: Students with multiple missing assignments in one or more classes will be assigned mandatory after-school tutorial. If the assignment is completed and submitted during the noon tutorial session, the assignment will only receive a 10% deduction for tardiness. If a student fails to attend the assigned tutorial, they will receive Saturday school for the first offense, and in-school suspension after that.
  • Automated Parental Communication: Teachers will check for completion of assignments the class period an assignment is submitted. If a student has failed to submit an assignment, the teacher will immediately log the assignment with an “M” for missing in the online gradebook. Once the “M” is logged, the gradebook will send out an automated text message to a parent/guardian reading, “Your student has a missing assignment in X class.”
  • Goal Setting and Self-Monitoring: At the start of each semester, students will compose (home)work- and academic-related goals in Mentoring (homeroom). They will write out a plan to help meet those goals. Once per month, students will report to their Mentoring class to complete a self-monitoring log in which they evaluate their progress toward their goals, share with a group, receive feedback, and revise their plans to better achieve their goals moving forward.
  • BASES Incentive Program: The current BASES program in practice at Hurricane High School will remain in effect as the incentive program for (home)work completion. A student focus group will be established to better tailor the incentives offered to student preference. Loss of student free time during lunch and/or after school will provide a more motivating set of consequences then grade deductions alone.

I plan on implementing this system as thoroughly as I can in my own classroom this academic year, recording data to analyze at the end of the Fall semester to determine effectiveness and make revisions. I do not believe I will be able to enforce anything beyond noon tutorial, however, but the new English Department policy will allow me to make noon tutorial mandatory and to attach consequences like detention for failure to comply. I plan on pitching this system to the English Department when we all meet the first few days teachers go back. I am hoping they will agree, as it does build off the policy we all co-authored at the end of the last school year, and I am hoping at least a few will agree to track data throughout the semester too. This  will give me a much greater pool of data to analyze than my classroom alone can offer. If the department gets on board and the system is effective, we may have enough data to convince administration to adopt the program school-wide.

What are your thoughts on the policy outlined above? What would you change or add? And what have you done this summer? I would love to hear about the work of other educators and/or receive some feedback on my ideas. Please comment below, Tweet me @teachtwdchange, email me at sarah@evolutionizingeducation.com, or visit my website.

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