Intervention programs having an important impact across all grade levels in Hughson
Extra academic attention is generating positive results across the Hughson Unified School District, with students at all grade levels showing measurable improvement on key diagnostic tests given three times a year.
The intervention programs have been in place since 2015 at Hughson and Fox Road elementary schools and were added in the 2021-22 school year at Ross Middle School and Hughson High School. Though not directly related to concerns about student performance after the learning disruptions caused by COVID starting in the spring of 2020, the intervention programs nonetheless have helped many students get back on track in the classroom, especially in core subjects like math and English.
“It was something we had always discussed implementing, but COVID made it essential,” explained Assistant Superintendent Carrie Duckart.
The programs work slightly differently at each campus, but the bottom line is undeniable – they’re effective.
For instance, at the high school, one measure of performance is how many students are ineligible for sports and other extracurricular activities because they have poor grades. In the fall of 2021, 163 students (21.7% of the school’s enrollment of 830) were ineligible. A year later, Principal Loren Lighthall said that number had been cut almost in half (82 students, or 11.7%).
At the middle school, there was a decrease of 40 “F” grades at the end of the first semester this school year compared with the previous one.
“I attribute that kind of success to our students and teachers who have used (the intervention time) as intended,” Principal Mary La Rosa said.
At Fox Road, Principal Jeff Persons said he and his staff are “excited” about the progress their fourth- and fifth-graders continue to make.
“More than half of our students (54%) have already reached their typical growth target for the entire year and we are only halfway through,” he said.
Improvement is measured by the computerized iReady tests administered at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. The intervention – involving teachers at all grade levels and with the help of paraprofessionals in elementary classrooms – takes place multiple times a week.
At the high school, it’s wedged from 11:01 and 11:37 a.m. between third and fourth periods on Tuesdays and Thursdays. About 200 students – most flagged by their teachers, but some who “self-assign” because they recognize they need the extra attention -- spend that time getting one-on-one help from instructors and reviewing lessons that caused them to struggle.
Lighthall said the students who are not involved in intervention receive enrichment in other subjects like art, music or cooking, or have a chance to meet with college presenters or financial aid representatives.
On the middle school campus, three-quarters of the students involved in intervention flagged themselves; the rest are assigned by their teachers. The 30 minutes of special attention is carved out of the schedule on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. All subjects are involved. La Rosa said students who don’t need intervention use the time to work on assignments, make up quizzes or tests, or participate in enrichment activities like art, music or PE.
At the elementary schools, the interventions are for one hour four days a week. Students are broken into small groups led by teachers as well as paraprofessionals who come into the classroom specifically during intervention efforts. Duckart said the focus is on English and the SIPPs reading program (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Sight words) for students who still need phonics support as they learn to read.
“Once all the students in the classroom have exited SIPPs, the para may work with the students on reading lessons from i-Ready and/or the adopted curriculum,” she said. “On days dedicated to math, the para continues with SIPPS for students who are still in need to ensure the continuity of the program and the support for the student.”
The goal, Duckart said, is to get elementary students back to grade level expectations for English and math. Once they’ve achieved that in a subject, their teacher may provide enrichment activities than can be fun and/or challenging.
Megan Reisz, principal at Hughson Elementary, said the majority of her first- through third-grade students have shown growth thanks to the intervention program. Kindergarteners who were just tested for the first time in December also will begin to participate now that baseline assessments have been done.
“We have students who were performing below grade level and have made so much progress that they are now on grade level,” said Reisz.
Across the district, teachers and administrators say there are pleased with the consistent improvement students have shown since the intervention programs became a part of each campus’ weekly rhythm.
“There was definitely a higher percentage of students beginning school this year on grade level than last,” said Duckart. “We are seeing similar progress mid-year and are happy with the growth. Many students are reaching their annual growth targets and exceeding them already.”