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Case Study: The Granger Junior High School Model PDF Print E-mail

granger-modelThe After-School Program at Granger Junior High School has become a popular model for its Academic Support Program component.  It offers students a wide variety of academic and enrichment activities in order to meet their unique interest and needs. No student is ever turned away.

The “Granger Model” has proven to be effective at two of schools that have traditionally been the lowest performing schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District:  Granger Junior High and National City Middle School (NCM).

The API improvement results at Granger and National City Middle School (NCM), a sister school, are remarkable given the demographic and socio-economic data of both schools. Both Granger and NCM are located in National City, California. National City is one of the poorest cities (one of the highest poverty rates), with a median household income of $15,000. It has one of the highest unemployment rates and highest violent crime and gang presence in the region. Over 85% of the students at both middle schools receive free or reduced lunch.

The Academic Support Program developed by Granger includes four components used to help students close the achievement gap: 1) Attitude of a Winner, 2) Six-Step Folders System, 3) Four Program Characteristics and 4) Eight Targeted Academic Intervention Activities.

1) Attitude of a Winner:

Our Academic Support Program is based on the belief that all students can and MUST succeed in school regardless of their economic or family situation. Granger views students from the position of strength, not weakness (are capable, not broken). While life may or may not be easy for many of them (come from broken homes, parents have limited English skills, poor living conditions, poverty, violent neighborhoods, high gang presence, alcohol/drug abuse etc); the program’s philosophy is that students have within themselves the strength, intelligence and resiliency to overcome their circumstances and achieve in school and in life.

Their motto is “no hay pobrecitos”; there are no poor little things. Students are empowered to believe in themselves, work hard, dream big and to never, ever give up. Students are taught that all things are possible in life provided they develop this “attitude of a winner” and are willing to pay the price (work hard).

The program sets high expectations for students, requiring them to make a commitment to succeed in school.

Students who fail two or more classes are automatically enrolled in an intensive intervention activity (Rising Stars). This activity requires a daily commitment of 2 hours after school. Students enrolled in this activity quickly learn that that the time and effort required of them is much greater if they fail than if they simply succeed.

As result, many students experience a level of success in school they never thought possible.

2) Six Step Folder System:

The Six Step Folder System, the key to the Academic Support Program, was developed as a response to the need in our school community.

At the time, the school was in Program Improvement year three. Many teachers on the campus had lost hope. Those that had not lost hope felt powerless to help students learn: too many students with severe learning gaps, many unmotivated/apathetic students, many classroom disruptions/student behavior problems, unresponsive parents, overwhelmed administrators, lack of power to get students to do their work and take school seriously.

All this resulted in low student expectations. Most teachers reasoned that the students were simply not capable of experiencing success in school either because they did not have the skills or because they were dealing with drama in their families/community that caused school to take a back seat to their real world issues.

Most of the teachers bought into the belief that students had the right to fail. Only students that asked for help would receive help, all others were allowed to fail.

A new administration was hired and student expectations had to change. No longer would student failure be tolerated. In consultation with the school administration, the After-School Program decided to take the lead in helping the school turn around.

A plan was presented to put “academics first” by requiring kids to stay after school if they did not complete their assignment. The objective was to motivate students to do their work and to empower teachers in the classroom. The plan was accepted by many obstacles had to be overcome upon implementation.The Six-Step Folder System below took three years to fine-tune into a replicable system. It was developed through constant trial and error. It has now been implemented at several schools and has produced excellent results everywhere it has been implemented.The reason this system below works is because it is teacher friendly (requires minimal teacher involvement), is flexible (teacher chooses their own students and chooses the day they want to send students) and is productive (includes the missed assignment).

1. Teacher Prepare Folders/Place in box.
Two types of Folders: manila (work); colored (support class)

2. All Folders Picked-up (end of lunch 1:15)

3. Daily list prepared:
Advisory Room Number.
Teacher Prepared the Folder.
Academic Support Activity Location.
Date Folder Submitted.

4. Folders sorted according to Advisory room number

5. Folders distributed to students in Advisory (3:10)

6. Bell Rings/Students with a folder released to Cafeteria.

3) Four Program Characteristics

The Academic Support Program is successful because it follows four intervention elements that are known to get results. They are research-based and can be further explored by reading Richard De Four’s work:

Research shows that programs that have shown to be successful at closing the achievement gap (assisting students who have one or more years in their learning) are directive in nature. Students in these programs are required to receive the extra support (before school, during school and after school).

Research also shows that targeted academic support is essential for helping the students that need the most help (FBB, BB, B, EL, RFEP’s, Spec Ed etc). Targeted support, however, is not limited to sub groups. It can be assigned to students who test poorly on their weekly formative assessments.

In order for the targeted support to be effective, research shows that the support must be offered on a timely basis. Teachers must have at their disposal the ability to offer students immediate support in order to keep students from falling behind the group.

Research shows that in order for academic interventions to be effective long term, there must be a systematic process in place. The Six-Step Folder System is designed to ensure that the results are predictable time and time again. Another important factor is that this system can be easily replicated by non-teaching paraprofessionals or tutors.

4) Eight Targeted Academic Intervention Activities:

bobby-bleischEight targeted support activities are offered on a daily basis to meet the unique academic needs of the students: 1. Academic Enrichment Center (AEC- Homework center), 2. Support Classes (SC- teachers select based on formative assessment), 3. Blended Support Classes (BSC- teacher selected based on informal assessments), 4. 7th Per. Classes (target FBB, BB), 5. Credit Recovery (CR- students missing credits), 6. Saturday Workshops (SW- 4 hour intervention classes on Saturday’s), 7. Rising Stars (RS- intensive intervention for students failing 2 or more classes) and 8. ABC Intervention (ABC- extra support for A,B, C students).

Targeted Academic Intervention Activities were designed to help close the achievement gap for all students but especially for students known to be at-risk of school failure. This program has been credited by the school as being one of the major reasons why Granger pulled out of Performance Improvement status and increased API: 603 to 744 in five years and the reason National City Middle School pulled increased 86 API points In two years to 738.

Read the resources and information below, provided by Bobby Bleisch, Granger’s Assistant Principal and developer of the Granger Model. Local pilot programs to watch include Kings Canyon Middle School in Fresno Unified School District, a Fresno County F.R.E.S.H. afterschool program partnership.