A number of strategies put into place over the last year have led to a marked decrease in failing grades for students at Mesquite High School.
The Gilbert school began collecting data last year on the number of “F’s” earned at each grade report — the quarterly student assessment marks — as set by Gilbert Public Schools. At the November 2013 grade report, Mesquite High School saw a 23-percent decrease in the number of “F” grades earned compared to last year’s report.
Principal Ken Fetter credits a few programs the school installed to increase student achievement. One program he mentioned is the Response to Intervention (RTI), which the school developed last February to provide students who have a difficult time learn intervention and assistance.
Students who fail or miss a class have to attend RTI for the first 30 minutes of their 65-minute lunch break. They complete the work they missed; a student who misses a health class, for example, might have to read a health article and write a summary of it to earn back some of their missed grade points.
Fetter said students work at different paces and the skill set programs available can help them learn more efficiently.
“Having the program during lunch is convenient for students because they don’t have to worry about arriving to school early or staying after class for the program,” he said.
The high school also has an online reporting system that helps students and parents keep track of their progress.
Another tool Fetter mentioned is the school’s Professional Learning Committees (PLCs). PLCs examine student performance data on a variety of assessments, analyze the specific learning needs of students, and develop lessons to target those needs.
The process encompasses peer tutoring and involvement from both parents and teachers, and he said the committees have contributed to the reduction in “F” grades.
Fetter said Mesquite implemented another program, Khan Academy, which allows students to learn online at their own pace. It is available for free to students struggling with math, and the program takes place during lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
All of the tactics taken by Mesquite to improve student achievement fall in line with Gilbert Public Schools’ goal to increase the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards by 2 to 3 percent in math, reading, and writing in state testing.
“Our goal is to have every student graduate and provide the skills needed to enter the workforce beyond high school,” Fetter said.
• Kelly Kleber is a senior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern with the Tribune this semester. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.