Mile High’s Homework Assistance Program (HWA) best exemplifies the staff’s commitment and dedication to our students. The program was developed by Mile High staff and has been adopted by our sister school, Granite Mountain Middle School, and Heritage Middle School in Chino Valley, a neighboring district, because of its effective impact on student achievement.
HWA was born out of grave concerns for the failure rates, our diverse socio-economic population, decreasing homework turn-in rates, decreasing test scores, and high incidences of discipline referrals. As a staff, we chose to put more energy into “parenting” our students to create success. We developed the motto “Every kid, every assignment.” This focus makes HWA different than the traditional study hall atmosphere; the teacher’s role is that of mentoring and interacting with the student on a more personal level instead of maintaining a regimented atmosphere of enter, sit, study, do not interact attitude.
The daily 40-minute homework assistance class provides a quiet work environment conducive to studying. Students either complete assignments, study for exams, or read library books. Sometimes groups review for a test in science, social studies, or math. Weekly agenda checks are done to make sure every student is filling out their daily assignments for each class.
This time is also used for student-teacher conferences concerning grades, attendance, and any other item the students wish to discuss. Individual student conferences were held second quarter to review last year’s Stanford 9 scores. Teachers explained the interpretation of the student’s performance and what he or she can do to improve weak areas. During these discussions, students focused on the factors that may have influenced their performance during the testing sessions; it was interesting to find that students were quite honest about why their scores were not necessarily reflective of their abilities. Students appeared to feel more motivated and encouraged to perform to their potential during this year’s testing. Prior to testing, we review test-taking strategies.
The original goals of HWA have been overshadowed as several unexpected outcomes have developed. Peer tutoring by the National Junior Honor Society resulted in a gain in confidence and self-esteem of the tutors and their tutees, a better understanding by NJHS tutors of the struggling effort it takes others to succeed, and a feeling of success by both groups.
HWA has provided an opportunity for students to bond as they work in pairs or small study groups. For some students, their HWA teacher is the adult they trust and feel they can approach with concerns or exciting news at any time.
Students and teachers are the winners with this program. We have not reached our ultimate goal of having every student complete all assignments; however we have made gains in several areas. Since the inception of HWA, our data shows a steady rise in test scores, an improvement in homework completion and turn in, better attendance, and a decline in discipline referrals. For example, we had 10% fewer referrals each year from 2000-2003, and currently referrals are down more than 25% from last year. In addition, the “No Pass No Play” list decreased by over half the first year of HWA’s existence and currently is about one-fourth of the failures before the program began.