My plan is to post a series of blog posts about creating a Freshman Transition Program in your school. I’m going to start at the beginning and go through some recommendations step-by-step. These ideas are based on my experience at my own school (Salem High School
in Salem, VA) and on my experiences as a consultant for Solutions, etc.
working with numerous schools in 18 states. I hope you’ll find these ideas and suggestions helpful. Please be sure to let me know if you have any questions and to leave comments if you have additional ideas that others could benefit from.
The first thing I would recommend is that you check out this suggested timeline
that Ray Moore
and I created. It could give you a good overview of things to consider when creating a Freshman Transition Program.
Next, don’t blindly adopt a program that someone else uses. Instead, create something that meets your school’s needs. To do this, the first thing you will need to do is to identify your school’s needs. It’s easy to simply say that we have a “freshman problem,” but what exactly is your “freshman problem”?
Start by examining data. You might look at data related to:
1. Drop outs
2. Course failures
7. Credits earned
8. Course requests
9. Course enrollments
Study this data. What are your school’s weaknesses? What are your school’s strengths?
Does your “freshman problem” involve all your freshmen? Many schools try to apply their freshman solution to all their freshmen despite the fact that year in and year out there is a sizable portion of the 9th grade class that doesn’t share in the problem. This might be an ok strategy; however, it could also be like putting a square peg into a round hole. You’re going to have make some decisions and set some priorities that will impact your school. You want this impact to help your freshmen without negatively impacting the rest of your school. It might be that you don’t need to apply your freshman solution to all freshmen. It’s not uncommon to have a group that might range in size from 10 – 20% that are doing just fine and that might not need the entire freshman solution. Forcing all students into the same solution can sometimes create too many constraints on your school’s master schedule and resources and make the entire Freshman Transition Program unworkable.
Once the data has been gathered, it is wise to present an overview of it to your faculty. Invite anyone interested to become part of a freshman committee that will begin meeting, analyzing this data, discussing your school’s freshmen, and creating a solution tailor-made to your school’s needs. An open invitation to your faculty is important because it gives everyone a chance to give input and let’s the faculty know that this new program is going to be something they create rather than something forced upon them. You might pick up some individuals that you never would have thought would be interested. However, it’s also a good idea to personally invite the teachers you really hope will take an active role in your Freshman Transition Program.
The next post will deal with the idea of the academy approach (where freshmen are separated) v. the idea of keeping freshmen integrated with the rest of the school’s population.
Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.