Source: Sherman Publications

Improving success with Freshman Academy

by Trevor Keiser

August 29, 2012

According to studies, one of the most pivotal year’s of a student’s life is the transition from middle school to high school freshman.

“Unfortunately statistics have shown that kids who aren’t successful in the beginning of their high school career have already made a decision on their direction by November and that’s possibly dropping out because school is not important,” said Darin Abasse, associate principal at Lake Orion High School. “We want to change that cycle.”

One of the ways they’re hoping to change the cycle is by implementing a new program called the “Freshman Academy.” The freshman Academy is based on a team structure and will of a total of seven teams with three teachers in each team. Each team will have a combination of three subjects of business, ELA, math, science, social studies, and world language. The idea is for the students scheduling will include have three of the same teachers all year long.

“This allows for more dialog and discussion can take place regarding their academics, behavior and other things that just come up on a daily basis in a classroom atmosphere,” said Abasse. “Our goal is to increase academic success while building relationships.”

When they started looking at schools that had the Freshmen Academy in 2006, Abasse said they noticed a lot of the schools isolated the freshmen and that was something Lake Orion didn’t want to do. Freshmen student’s schedules will still consist of block courses, because those will the majority of their classes as sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

“Being in those block classes allows them to explore other interests outside of the district and state requirement classes,” he said.

However, they did create an exclusive freshman locker pod.

“There are two anxieties freshmen go through that are unrelated to the academics. One is where is my locker and what lunch period do I have,” said Abasse. “Lunch period is not because they want to have lunch, they want to know what friends are in their lunch from their previous school.”

Lake Orion High School has six lunch periods, each with 600 students of grades 9-12. He said part of the growth as a student is finding that that lunch mate and table to sit at. As one of the lunch watchers, Abasse said it’s not uncommon to see tables that have a mix of freshmen on up to seniors sitting at it.

As for the measurement of success of the Freshman Academy, Abbasse said they will be collecting data by doing year-to-year comparisons of freshman failure rates per course, grade point averages, graduation rates, discipline records and attendance records, as well as freshman concerns and perceptions via beginning and end of year surveys, staff reflection and parent survey.

“I don’t care what school district you go to there is always a group of kids who are not reaching their full potential,” said Abasse. “We have kids who have not reached their potential because they don’t know who they are, why it is important and what they get out of it. That’s what we want this Freshman Academy to evolve into and this is the beginning I think of many more chapters.”