by Amelia Wedemeyer
At the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board meeting on December 19, Winona Area Learning Center (WALC) principal Mark Winter gave an update on the center and the current changes and methods in place to ensure a continuous stream of graduates.
As of September 4, 2012, 112 students have enrolled and walked the halls of WALC, which bills itself as a place for students in grades six through 12 who, for various reasons, have not succeeded in a traditional classroom and need a “second chance.” Out of the 112 students, 31 are no longer there, 18 of whom were 15-day drops, meaning that a student dropped out of WALC after not attending class for a period of 15 consecutive days.
The 15-day drop is part of a bigger, overall concern for grade 12+ students, who are either in their senior year of high school or past their senior year, and still working on earning high school diplomas. For many of these students, attendance and absences are the main problem.
“A lot is based on attendance,” Winter explained. “If you’re not attending, you’re obviously less likely to pass a class.”
This overall lack of success for grade 12+ students is a problem that WALC has already taken steps toward addressing, including revamping its curriculum this past spring. Instead of the regular independent study that dominated schedules at WALC, school teachers and administrators created schedules that feature courses made up of 9-10 day units. Grade checks occur every two weeks, which allow both students and teachers to assess what is currently working and what is not.
"We’ve also created an advisory session, so every Wednesday after the 10-day unit, teachers get together with their students to assess [progress],” said Winter.
Each teacher is an advisor for several students. This format has allowed both students and teachers more one-on-one experience and time to assess what is working and what is not. Winter explained that within these student-teacher assessments, it is easier to pinpoint whether the reason that a student is not meeting a requirement for a unit is due to absences or something entirely different.
“By doing this, it allows the teacher much more flexibility,” he said. “Much more direct instruction rather than just handing out a packet.”
While the new system has been met with good success from the underclassmen, Winter acknowledges that grade 12+ students still seem to be struggling with overall graduation and drop-out rates. Winter and his team at the WALC have contacted other area learning centers to gather other ideas, and examined online hybrid and after-hours programs.
“We’re brainstorming, trying to come up with different ideas, different options.”
As teachers and staff weigh different options for success for all students, the grade 12+ students continue to work toward graduation and success.