North Tahoe High School Model Program: Tiered, Responsive System of Student Support

  • As a schoolwide Title 1 program, North Tahoe High School always keeps closing the achievement gap at the center of its professional work.   For example, in 2007, according to AYP data, only 14% of our Hispanic students were proficient in ELA, while 78% of our white students were proficient; and only 18% of our Hispanic students were proficient in math, while 70% of our white students were proficient.   Additionally, we identified a massive achievement gap in the area of meeting A-G requirements. Of 32 total students meeting A-G requirements in 2013-2014, only 12% were Hispanic (4). The primary reason for students failing to meet A-G requirements was D's in required courses.   As a result, the guiding goal for our work for the past several years has been: Eighty percent (80%) of all students will earn a C or better in all courses in order to increase the A-G completion rates for all student populations. In 2018, 57% of our Hispanic graduates and 72% of all graduate met A-G requirements.  In order to achieve this progress, we dedicated ourselves to developing a tiered, responsive system of student support.  The key elements of this system include scheduling and resource allocation, curricular opportunity, a schoolwide focus on literacy, and specific support programs.

    This is our seventh year implementing a modified block schedule with three traditional six-period days and two alternating block days with an intervention/enrichment period and a Pathways (advisory) period built into the block days.  An intervention period runs on block day mornings from 7:30-8:15, and students are assigned Intervention based on their needs. The goals of this system are to provide immediate support for students who begin to struggle with academic concepts and/or skills and provide enrichment opportunities for students within the school day.   Specific outcomes are increasing the number of students passing their classes with a C or better thereby meeting A-G requirements. The foundation of our Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2)system occurs in Tier 1, the mainstream classroom, with strong and differentiated instruction, formative assessment to drive instruction, and reteaching with multiple opportunities for students to show proficiency of standards, thereby providing Tier 1 types of intervention within regular class time. To support this work, NTHS provides three full-time instructional aides (two special education and one bi-lingual), who work both individually with students to support their learning and push into mainstream classes to support student learning at large. Additionally, two special education teachers co-teach in math and science courses that have a high concentration of students needing additional academic supports. The Intervention period provides Tier 2 intervention in which students may voluntarily seek the help of their classroom teachers for clarification of concepts, support on specific assignments, and making up assignments or retaking assessments. Additionally, some students are assigned mandatory Intervention by teachers based on their overall grade/performance or based on evidence of a need for reteaching from a specific assessment.  If students fail to attend a mandatory intervention period, they are required to attend “Lunch Bunch” the following day and complete missing work. Finally, NTHS provides Tier 3, long-term intervention through ongoing support classes within the master schedule. Students with an IEP are often scheduled into a study skills support class with a resource teacher. English Learners are scheduled into appropriate level ELD classes that focus on English language and literacy development as well as support for coursework in mainstream classes. Additionally, we offer an Academic Foundations class to support ninth-grade students who are reading significantly below grade level and have a history of struggling academically. This course focuses on literacy and math skill development as well as study skills necessary to succeed in high school and beyond. The final structural support is the Pathways (advisory) course, which provides students with important grade-level information regarding courses, college, and careers; monitors the completion of students’ community service requirement; and connects students with a teacher who monitors their academic progress.  The Pathways class acts as an additional safety net for students who may be struggling academically or personally.

    In addition to structuring the school day and weekly schedules to support student learning, NTHS has instituted some specific curricular changes to help all students have access to high level, rigorous curriculum.  NTHS has adopted a philosophy that all students should have access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In order to achieve this, we have established the academic foundations course available for freshmen to ensure that all students get off to a strong start in high school.  In coordination with this support course, we developed a system by which all students reading at or near grade level enter English 9 Honors. The rationale behind this is that students who need extra support get it, and students who are capable of success at high levels see themselves as scholars capable of academic achievement and choose more rigorous courses.  This approach complements the philosophy of the College Board, and NTHS was accepted as one of the nation’s first schools to implement a Pre-AP English 9 curriculum for all freshmen (including those not in English 9 honors) this year. This curriculum is designed to get all students ready for high-level, rigorous academic tasks that analyze and evaluate texts, thereby preparing them for future AP coursework.  NTHS now has two AP courses available to Sophomores (AP Human Geography and AP Spanish Language) to introduce students to college-level work. Then in their junior and senior years, AP course offerings abound with 15 AP courses offered to students each year. This year, 607 AP courses are being taken by 244 students, 90 of which (37%) are Latino and 82 of which (34%) are socio-economically disadvantaged. As a result, 49% of seniors in the class of 2017 graduated having passed one or more AP tests, and 52% of seniors in the class of 2018 graduated having passed one or more AP tests. Nationally, approximately 22% of graduating seniors have passed one or more AP tests.  We are currently looking at the possible addition of an Introduction to Integrated Math class for freshmen who may be struggling with high school mathematical concepts. The idea is to provide students with the supports they need before they fail instead of trying to remediate afterward. In this way, NTHS is always working to evaluate student needs and adjust our programs and offering accordingly.

    A schoolwide focus on literacy holds students at the center of all decisions made around reading and literacy at North Tahoe High School. Over the past several years, we have found that in order to increase student motivation, engagement, and achievement in reading, we need to provide our students with voice and choice in what they read in order to build confidence and volume. This shift in focus and instruction has been instrumental in the creation of our culture of literacy and provided a foundation for the other core focus areas of the framework: support for struggling readers and professional development and support for content-area teachers. Evidence of this school-wide focus can be seen in the participation of all students in the Accelerated Reader program, silent sustained reading (SSR) built into the Pathways period, increased library checkouts, classroom libraries in every room on campus, and a literacy focus through reading and writing in all content areas. When they entered as freshmen, the Class of 2018 only had 32% of the class reading at or above grade-level. When they graduated, 60% of the students were reading at or above grade-level. Overall,  NTHS has 60% of its student body reading at or above grade level, up from 40% from the previous three years, and last year, each grade level saw an increase of at least 6% of students reading at or above grade level from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. English Learner (EL) performance and English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC)/California English Language Development Test (CELDT) scores have seen a steady increase over the last four years due to a number of factors, including a focus on school-wide literacy, an influx of highly effective teachers and administrators, a full-time bilingual aide and an on-site EL Coordinator.

    Finally, we have established several programs to support students with specific social, emotional, and/or academic support.   The NTHS GRIT program focuses on incoming 9th grade Latino students and tracks their academic progress until graduation. The GRIT program strives to have students meet the A-G requirements and apply to universities. Students who enter the program commit to earning a 3.0 or higher GPA, enroll in AP classes and participate on at least one sports team at NTHS. GRIT program advisers monitor student progress by providing academic coaching sessions at every grading period for all students in the program, organize university visits, provide informational parent nights and provide college and scholarship application support. The program started in the 2015-2016 school year with 37 students and has grown to 80 students for the 2018-2019 school year. In the 2017-2018 school year, 85% of the GRIT students earned a 3.0 GPA or above for the first semester and 91% earned a 3.0 GPA or above the second semester. The A-G rate for graduating Latino students was 40% for the 2016-2017 school year and the rate was 57% for the 2017-2018 school year. In the three years of the GRIT program implementation at NTHS, it has graduated 18 students and 16 were accepted to a CSU and/or UC. Previous GRIT students are currently attending UC Berkeley, Sacramento State University, University of Nevada-Reno and UC Davis. The Link Crew program is also supporting freshmen with a successful transition to high school and creating connectedness between upperclassmen and freshman students. The Link Crew Coordinators have been a resource and support system for the freshman class. The Wellness Center is a resource that many students utilize throughout the school year. The Wellness Coordinator is seen as a “caring adult on campus” by a large number of students according to the student survey. In these ways, NTHS has established programs to help support students in a variety of ways that promote academic success and readiness to learn.

    Each year, the staff goes through an in-depth data analysis cycle to evaluate our progress on the previous year's goals, set new annual goals, and design an action plan to achieve these goals.  The guiding document for this goal setting and progress monitoring process is the site accountability plan, which is written each year and presented to the governing board, parents, and students.  Parents and students are given an opportunity to provide input on the site goals and plan through Site Council, ELAC, and leadership meetings as well as surveys. In 2013-14, NTHS completed a full Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) self-study, which allowed staff, parents, students and community members to analyze the whole school program and set priorities and goals for improvement.   This process resulted in extremely positive feedback from the visiting committee and a six year accreditation term with a mid-term review. The mid-term review was completed in 2016-2017, which also provided NTHS with very positive feedback. Our tiered, responsive system of student support is an integral part of all of our site goals, which focus on constantly improving English and math achievement, creating a safe and respectful school environment that kids want to enter each day, and narrowing the achievement gap.

    This student support system is referenced in TTUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) as follows:

    TTUSD LCAP Goal 1 ensures that all scholars achieve and make continuous progress in order to thrive and to be successful in a globally competitive age and be prepared for college, career, and life. (TTUSD Pathways 2020 Goals 1 and 4). Specific districtwide actions that ensure all students are prepared for college, career, and life include opportunities for all 10th and 11th-grade students to take the PSAT, implementation of improvement science methods to better target and address the needs of identified student groups, the maintaining of smaller class sizes across the district and the district funds an English Learner Coordinator for each school. Expanded implementation of the district funded Naviance program is planned for the 2018/2019 school year and will continue into the 2019/2020 school year. This expansion includes formalizing the career exploration program for all eighth-twelfth grade students, assessing student career and academic needs and further implementing services to address student needs. Other actions not identified in the LCAP include providing a $50.00/per AP exam subsidy and funding SAT test prep sessions at each high school site.

    TTUSD LCAP Goal 2 ensures all staff members are implementing effective instructional strategies, providing quality learning opportunities, integrating technology, and utilizing data to actively engage each scholar to learn at the highest levels, and gain 21st-century skills in order to be prepared for college, career, and life. (TTUSD Pathways 2020 Goals 1 and 2) The primary district-wide action for this goal is to provide job-embedded professional development opportunities for teachers to refine their practice. These include but are not limited to, access to instructional coaching and teacher self-assessment, goal setting and monitoring around focused elements of the TTUSD Framework for Student Learning, collaborative peer observation in classrooms.

    TTUSD LCAP Goal 3 ensures systems of support for learning and providing safe schools with positive and caring climates where all scholars have opportunities to achieve at high levels. (TTUSD Pathways 2020 Goals 3, 6, 7 and 8) Specific districtwide actions encompassed under this goal include maintaining safe and well-maintained facilities, extensive (to and from) school transportation for students, district funded counselors,district funded wellness centers and programs for the high schools, and partnerships with local community agencies that support socio-emotional wellness for all students.

    Both state and local data show a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students as well as an increase in academic achievement for all students at NTHS.  This growth is due in large part to our tiered, responsive system of student support and intervention.