State test scores indicate only about half of Springfield High School students will meet new graduation standards, which school leaders say it why the district must make changes soon.
The district held a community forum Wednesday night as the Springfield School Board of Education considers eliminating academies at the high school.
High School students choose one of five academies — Health and Human Services; Visual and Performing Arts; Business and Law; Digital Media and Communications; and Science, Technology, Engineering, Applied Arts, and Math. But the academies don’t have an even distribution of students, resulting in some counselors with too many students and others with not enough.
The school needs to make sure students are getting one-on-one time with counselors and teachers to make sure they are prepared to pass tests, Superintendent Bob Hill said. So implementing “focus periods” a couple times a month might be a way to ensure each student gets individual attention and doesn’t get left behind.
“The focus period happens at some sort of interval to provide that touch based, personal one-to-one relationship,” Hill said. “That’s what I envision.”
Right now students aren’t getting that special attention.
“It’s because of the current structure,” Hill said of the academies. “You have 500 kids in STEAM with one counselor and you have 177 kids in digital media with one counselor. It’s not an equal distribution. (The counselors) just don’t have the time.”
The district has tried to close the gap between workloads for each counselor by sending some STEAM students to counselors with less students, Hill said, but it hasn’t worked out due to the academy demands.
“We tried to spread it out this year and we still don’t have the time,” he said. “But if you spread students equally across five counselors, that gives them the time.”
A current plan presented by High School Director of Secondary Education Marvin Jones calls for a lead principal with several assistant principals underneath him or her. Those assistants will act as department heads for subject areas.
Counselors will work together and students will be divided evenly so that each counselor will have an opportunity to help students more often.
Those who attended the forum had different ideas for the best direction for the school.
Leah Chaffee, a mother in the district, said at first she didn’t like the idea of changing the high school structure because her daughters who already graduated thrived in the academy environment. But, as she has researched it, she said she likes the idea of having multiple department heads in each subject to maintain learning plans for each student.
“The idea that they have for the different principals, it would bring individualized focus instead of an academy focus,” she said. “And it would bring attention to the ability of each student and be able to assist them in achieving their goals.”
Linda Butler, a community member, said she’s not OK with the idea of eliminating academies in the school.
“What I am for is the small school concept because it works,” She said. “It is the best practice model.”
She said she doesn’t believe the academies are the reason behind low test grades and that accountability could improve in the district.
“There could be a lot of focus on what is broken instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water,” she said.
Chaffee said right now it seems like some students aren’t being challenged enough. She said test scores indicate more needs to be done, and the thought of many students not graduating is scary.
“If the tests continue to get harder and harder, I think it is great because our country is lacking and falling behind and we do need to identify that and help our kids out,” she said. “But, if you are an inner city school and your kids are not ready for that and they don’t pass, then you’ll start having kids that can’t get jobs because they don’t have a high school diploma.”
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