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Middle school turnaround


Teachers and adult volunteers help Sequim Middle School students at Thursday School, which helps students in grades 6-8 raise their grades by spending extra time working on assignments after school. Sequim High School junior Sara Hankins, center, helps seventh-grader Yulisa Preciado, right, with math problems on mean, median and mode. Molly Fitzpatrick, seventh grade, left, said she started Thursday School just a few weeks ago but it helps a lot. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Struggling students at Sequim Middle School are turning it around thanks to a program called Thursday School.

From 2:45-4 p.m. every Thursday, 28-33 students work to bring their grades up.

Principal Brian Jones approached school counselor Rob Brooke during the 2008-2009 school year because many students were failing their core classes.

“The prevailing attitude was ‘I’ll just get a zero,’” said Brooke.

“We were tracking students with three to five F’s,” Jones said.

Saturday Detention, an earlier program, didn’t seem to help students’ behavior or grades so they established Thursday School as an alternative.

“We felt it was important to have an opportunity for them to make their work up,” Brooke said.

Jones said money allocated from Sequim School District for the detention program goes to Thursday School staff stipends and supplies.

Classroom ratios
In Thursday School, the ratio is about two-to-one boys to girls.

“It’s mostly the same students each week, with a few new ones,” Brooke said.

The program initially had a 50-percent no-show rate but that changed as the program grew.

“It’s building a trust,” Brooke said.

“Most of them realize they are getting an opportunity they wouldn’t normally get.”

Students with one or more failing grade are required to attend Thursday School until their grades improve.

Those who skip Thursday School are given in-school suspension the next day.

“When they do better in school, they have better behavior,” Jones said.

Two or more assignments must be done before students sign out with a teacher or volunteer.

One big incentive is finishing assignments before sports practices because students with poor grades cannot participate, Brooke said.

Results
Thursday School has brought improvement.

In the fourth quarter of 2008-2009, there were 93 F grades.

In the first quarter of this school year, there were 73.

“Generally half the kids have better grades than when they started,” Jones said.

Eighth-grader Chase Coulson has participated for a few months and said he’s definitely getting more work done and his grades are going up, too.

“My goal is to do all my work,” he said.

Brittany Andrews-Pierce, an eighth-grader, participated last year.

When the Sequim Gazette spoke to her, she was working on a literature class assignment.
“It’s brought my grades up a lot,” she said.

“Teachers have helped and it’s showed me how to get my assignments done and that I should work on the ones worth the most points first.”

Support
Jones said Thursday School is the only program of its kind in the school district or county.

When it first started, Brooke often managed the whole group by himself or with one adult
volunteer, when most of the students needed individual attention. Now a few teachers, volunteers and a high school student help with the program.

Brooke said he plans to stick with Thursday School because of its results.

“I really care about these kids and I want to see them succeed,” he said.

Sequim Middle School also offers Catch Up Club after school on Tuesdays. It’s open to all students grades 7-12 regardless of grades.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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