Our students are able to earn four credits a year if they attend
Reading, Writing and Relating
on a regular basis. They can earn credit in English, science and math. All of our students are encouraged to take an additional hour class in another subject in order to earn the full five credits that an average student would be expected to earn. Their other option is to spend the first hour of the day in our classroom working on mutually agreed upon assignments and keeping regular attendance.
In awarding credit we consider attendance, effort and noticeable progress in the mastery of basic reading, writing and speaking skills. Our students are so far below grade level that we cannot use any of the basic standards of measurement that are usually used for high school students. Instead we look at where our students start when they first appear in our class and set individualized academic and social goals for each one. At the beginning of the year we heap praise on what would be relatively small accomplishment for the average high school student; i. e., attending school for a full week without missing a single day, completing an assignment, writing neatly, expressing an opinion in a class discussion or getting a 60, 70 or 80 in a tenword spelling quiz. Our students are so used to failure that they need to learn that there is a possibility of success before they will begin to try to learn in earnest.
In order to give our students a clear idea of what we expect them to accomplish, we will draw up a weekly checklist of their classwork. The students learn to organize, check off and staple together their week’s work. Although we will have already seen and corrected most of their daily papers, we can at the end of the week check out how the student himself feels he has done. Close daily and weekly supportive feedback on a regular basis will be a normal part of the student teacher interaction.
Our school issues credit four times a year. A student can earn 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, or 1 full credit at the end of each marking period. Rather than giving letter grades each teacher writes a narrative evaluation describing the academic and social progress that the student has made during the marking period.
By the second quarter we will identify the main handicaps our students have, and we will develop a working strategy for dealing with the problems. We will set up individual conferences with the students to discuss our assessment of their strong points and their weak points, and where we and the students work out some mutual goals. We will include communication with their families as an integral part of the feedback process. Most parents of our students have developed attitudes toward schools that are just as negative as those of their children. When the parents of our students have received communication from school, it has usually been because their children have had academic and/or behavioral problems. We plan to start the school year with positive communication with the home, so that we can develop a working relationship with the parents that will be supportive to the students.
Most of our students will graduate from our class and advance to the next reading class at the end of one year. Some students will be permitted or encouraged to remain with us for two years. Students who can not progress to the next class after two years in ~ will, in most cases, be counseled to enroll in a different program outside of our school more suited to their special needs.