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Success Prep Conferences - guiding freshmen into the future

"If only someone had told me that when I was a freshman!"

What a sad statement to hear coming from a high school senior. High school is all about choices. As educators we must take every opportunity to help students and parents make better informed choices early on in their high school careers.

I would like to a recommend a model for doing this called Success Prep Conferences. Many schools – including Salem High School where I am an assistant principal – use this model. (At SHS we call these conferences Program Planning.) It’s a model that could be employed at every single K-12 grade level; however, id due to limited resources one year must be chosen, then 9th grade is the year I would recommend. Everything before 9th grade is sort of like practice. It’s hard to focus on “the rest of your life” when you’re not even in high school yet. Anything after the 9th grade could be too late. Students will have already made choices that will have closed off doors of opportunity.

The Success Prep Conference method consists of a half-hour conference with the parents, the student, a classroom teacher, a career and technical/elective area teacher, and a guidance counselor. During conferences the team works to create a plan for the next 3 years of high school that is based on the child’s interests and that will help them get the most out of high school so that they can be successful in the future.

The characteristics of a Success Prep Conference plan are:

1. Goal-oriented
We want students and parents to begin to form ideas about where they are going in life and what they want to accomplish both in and out of high school. Many students already have ideas about this, but many don't.
2. Realistic
Many students and parents don't understand the realities of transcripts, diplomas, graduation requirements, state test requirements, and getting into college. Often they have very unrealistic ideas of where their current level of effort will take them. Success Prep Conferences help students and parents better understand what it takes to go where they want to go. This in turn encourages them to work in the appropriate manner.
3. Challenging
Students need to expand their horizons, try new things, get involved with their schools, and challenge themselves. We advocate all students exploring the career and technical courses, and when appropriate match them up with a mentor from one of those areas. Students are pushed to get involved with extracurricular activies, clubs, and sports. We also advocate students looking for academic challenges. All students are encouraged to try rising above their current academic level and becoming the very best they can be.

The results of Success Prep Conferences tend to be:
  • students and parents more focused on reaching goals
  • students and parents having a more realistic understanding of how the system works
  • students becoming more involved in school
  • students taking a wider and more rigorous array of courses
  • enrollments increasing in advanced and career/technical courses
  • students challenging themselves in new ways
  • students and parents knowing that the school is looking out for their best interests
Here are a couple of examples of what people have had to say about Success Prep Conferences.

This video clip is of a parent whose daughter, Natalie, truly benefited from the guidance provided.

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear more parents say nice things about your school?

This next clip is of Ben. As a freshman Ben had no interest in college. However, when we looked at his test scores we realized that he had “pegged” the 99th percentile in EVERY SINGLE category. After explaining this to Ben and his mother, Ben began the process of considering attending college.

The goal is not to convince students to go to college instead of becoming mechanics. The goal is to get students to make the choices that maximize their potential.

If you’re interested in some help instituting this Success Prep Conference model in your school, let me know. As a consultant with Solutions, etc. I have helped many schools implement this model in their schools.

By the way, Success Prep Conferences make a great GEAR UP or HSTW grant proposal.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on April 6, 2010 at 8:24am
Deanie - that's awesome. When you consider that the first year of doing something is almost never the best (unless one doesn't properly plan for improvement) then you're on your way to greatness!

Let me know if you all ever need me to come to PCHS and work with your faculty on Success Prep. Sounds like you've got it under control, but if you ever need an outsider to help out, you know how to reach me.

Also, consider writing up a blog describing your school's experiences. Maybe include some of those quotes. I think people on this Ning would benefit from hearing about that.
Comment by Deanie Dunbar on April 6, 2010 at 7:03am
Scott, we have just completed our first annual Success Prep Conferences. We had a bit of resistance from one counselor, but complete support from the other and from administration. One teacher who helped commented. "At first I wondered why I was being asked to lead a group of conferences, but now I think every teacher should have the opportunity. I feel I know the students so much better. I know our relationships will improve as a result." Parents were equally enthusiastic. One said, "Thank you so much for information about courses, pathways, and graduation project at this early stage." I personally appreciate seeing the pride in parents' eyes as they listened to their children explain their career goals, their favorite courses, and their interests. What a simple but great way to unite parent, teacher, and resources for the benefit of each child. Thank you and the team for sharing this process with us. Success Prep Conferences will be an annual event at PCHS.
Comment by Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro on February 25, 2010 at 12:17pm
Hi Scott,
These conferences are really needed at both the high school and college level. I cannot count the number of times I consult with seniors (at both high school and college levels) and say (at least to myself) I wish we had this conversation three years ago... Ron

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