Can Success For Failing Schools Be This Easy?

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A recent study had dire news for anyone interested in secondary education: If your school is “low performing,” nothing will change that. But one program-- called Building Assets, Reducing Risk—has gotten awards for a method that can turn failing schools around.

More meetings. (Hear the collective groan from educators, counselors, and school administration.)

But these aren’t general, waste-time table talk.

According to a news report, “Up on the third floor here at St. Louis Park, there's a room with no windows, but inspirational posters and free candy on the table. We're here for the weekly block meeting. Here, teachers who share the same group of students sit down over a shared Google doc with the school support staff: the social worker, the counselor, sometimes even the police officer assigned to the school.”

In such meetings, adults share their concerns about individual students and brainstorm ways to help them.

A recent meeting of collective information discovered that a group of girls were all absent on the same days (Mondays and Fridays), always sat with older boys, and all violated dress codes.  Once they all conferred and began checking out the situation, they found all these girls were being trafficked for sex.

Could this kind of communication help prevent school shootings? Could it identify other potentially catastrophic personality time-bombs?  Just as the meetings sometimes focus on problems, the adults also collaborate on finding strengths in each student that can be maximized and encouraged.

What an innovative idea. All the teachers talk to each other and help identify problems and strengths. Then they work together to address these issues.  And this works—at one school, the failure rate of 50% in 9th grade students was cut in half, to 25%.

Of course, it would take extra time and commitment from already-overburdened teachers and staff. But if it meant a significant difference in keeping kids successful in school, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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