Casey County Schools: THE FORD Club
Casey County bought some laptops to use for credit recovery at the high school, but the largest part of the $10,000 grant went to a mentoring program for at-risk, third-grade boys.
The Finding our Real Destiny (FORD) Club teamed Superintendent Marion Sowders and five other men in the district to each mentor a group of five students who were falling behind in reading.
PHOTO: Students from Casey County Schools’ FORD Club work on their reading skills. Photo provided by Casey County Schools
“Myself, the district DPP and my special ed director, and then someone at each of three elementaries, we each had five students and we worked with them all year, just on a monthly basis, checking on attendance, behavior and grades and homework,” Sowders said.
At the end of the year, these students earned a trip to the Lexington Childrens’ Museum and to Rupp Arena.
“At the end of the year we started a book study,” he said. “We tried to ease them into the reading because they were so reluctant to start with, so we tried to really zero in on their interests. A lot of ours were interested in fishing and hunting, so we partnered with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to get free fish and wildlife magazines for them.”
Sowders said the mentors are trying to impact these students as early as possible by modeling good behavior, and showing them how to set goals.
“The feedback from teachers was just phenomenal, it was amazing, the difference in these young men,” he said. “I guess they just felt like someone cared, that someone was paying special attention to them. It’s one of the best things I’ve observed in my career.”
Sowders said these mentors will continue to follow these groups throughout the rest of their school careers. In the meantime, they are looking for more mentors to work with a new batch of third-graders.
Hazard Independent Schools: College and career readiness coach
Hazard Independent Schools has rarely had a dropout in recent years, but Superintendent Sandra Johnson said the district saw a need when it looked at its college and career readiness scores, so it put the grant toward the salary of an intervention specialist to work with students in that area.
“And we already know, even without receiving our assessment scores officially, just by calculating the data ourselves, that we have exceeded our state goal. Exceeded it by quite a bit,” she said.
She said the college and career readiness coach had an immediate impact at the high school.
“It was amazing this past year to walk into the high school … there was buy-in from all of the faculty in the building; you could walk up to any senior and they could tell you if they had met their benchmarks; if they hadn’t, what they were doing toward meeting their benchmarks,” she said.
“And the teacher that we employed, he worked with students one-on-one or in small groups, targeting their individual needs.”
The position was so successful, Board of Education Chairman Aster Sizemore said that there was no hesitation in bearing the full cost of the salary this school year.
“The big thing is, it encourages everyone to participate,” he said. “We’ve got to do the things that need to be done in order to succeed in life and I think that’s helped quite a bit, to get people’s attention.”
Nicholas County Schools: Project S.A.F.E.
It has been a few years since Nicholas County Schools last saw a dropout, but district officials aren’t taking chances when it comes to students’ futures.
Several years ago the district created Project S.A.F.E. (Scholastic Achievement For Everyone), a literacy and dropout prevention program, and the district applied the grant money toward it. The program identifies at-risk students as those who meet at least two of the following four dropout predictors:
• Those who failed in at least two of five core academic areas;
• at least six unexcused absences during previous school year;
• retention at grade level; and
• at least one suspension or two discipline referrals the previous school year.
“We have a coordinator for the program, which is what the funds were used for,” said Doug Bechanon, a district administrator. “$10,000 is just a drop in the bucket, but it does help provide those services and assistance to those kids. He works with them on a daily basis, goes around, double checks things, makes sure their home life is going well, if they’ve got their homework done, those types of things. Making a connection with the kids, that’s the whole key to it.”
The program is geared toward students in grade 4-12, with 75 percent of efforts planned for those in grades 4-8.
“Developing relationships and providing kids with the extra assistance that they need, those are the two big areas that we found” where we can reach students, Bechanon said.
Williamsburg Independent Schools: Credit recovery software
After looking at their needs, Superintendent Dennis Bryd said district officials decided a credit recovery program would do the most good for students.
They visited Corbin Independent Schools to look at its credit recovery software, and decided it would be a good fit in Williamsburg. “It’s an online course. We saw a lot of our students who struggled a little bit and needed to make some recovery do quite well. So we’re real happy it, so much that we renewed it for another year and expanded the number of students who could use it,” he said.
Byrd said this program is a great way to meet the needs of a number of students.
“The students who struggle many times are the ones who drop out or have the lowest attendance percentage, so that’s why we thought this was an area that we needed to do something about, to have programs that will meet their needs on an individual basis so they would be excited about school and finish,” he said.
Franklin County Schools: Dropout prevention/volunteer coordinator
Leaders in Franklin County Schools were already planning to retool a community education position when the district received the $10,000 dropout grant.
“Our focus is not strictly on the high schools; dropout issues start sometimes as early as kindergarten. We’re trying to take a K or even pre-K perspective with this and saying, ‘What can we do, not just for our high school kids, but for our middle and elementary students, so that those kids who may be potential dropouts, what can we do to support them and keep them in school?’” Superintendent Chrissy Jones said.
Kathleen Campbell took the job of dropout prevention/volunteer coordinator and her efforts to keep kids in school include drug and alcohol counseling; college and career readiness work; finding mentors and volunteers; and one of her most successful efforts, small group at Elkhorn Middle School.
“It started with students who were in STEP (Successful Teamwork for Educational Progress) … which is an alternative to out-of-school suspension,” Campbell said. “When I first started my mentoring program, a lot of the kids I wanted to pull out were in STEP, so I thought, instead of taking them out of the STEP program, why don’t I go into the STEP program. And that’s how this program was created.”
It meets twice a week and it gives students a safe place to talk about what is going on in their lives and provides Campbell and other faculty and volunteers the chance to show students there are less destructive paths in life. They work on anger management, respect and coping skills, among other things.
“All my kids in this group were failing last year,” Campbell said. “All of them had attendance problems, but that has improved dramatically, and they all passed.”
She is hoping to create similar groups at other district schools.
Jones said at its core, the program is trying to find out what kids need to keep them in school and then providing it.
“We’re just trying to get that support for our students,” she said. “We have counselors, but let’s be honest, there’s no way we can met the needs of all those students, so what we’re trying to do is get a good role model who those kids can connect with.”