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PHS Moves Forward With Plans To Improve Student Performance

Candace Braun

Princeton High School's Small Learning Communities (SLC) initiative will begin its second year this fall, with new programs and changes to the school day being instituted to increase student achievement levels.

This will include bringing back the concept of a homeroom, as well as departmental meetings among faculty members on early dismissal Wednesdays.

Implemented last year through a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program is designed to give schools funding that will enable them to find ways to create smaller group settings that personalize the educational experience.

It is a timely development for PHS after reports that the school fell short on the state's standards for student achievement during the 2004-2005 school year.

Faculty members have spent the summer filling in the details of the plan, said PHS Principal Gary Snyder at the Princeton Regional Board of Education's Program Committee meeting on Thursday, August 18. He added that many aspects of the program are geared toward establishing or -improving -relationships between adults and students.

The reinstallation of homeroom will involve assigning approximately 20 students according to alphabetical order into a 12-minute class between second and third periods. Two faculty members will be assigned to each room, and will follow the students through their four years at PHS.

The homeroom provides an opportunity to go over students' questions, grade progress, and to assist those with special needs, such as finding a tutor for a certain class or subject.

"It won't address every student every day, but we want to reach each one over the course of 180 days," said Mr. Snyder, adding that guidance counselors will also use this time to speak to students.

Homeroom teachers will take attendance, go over the day's announcements, and distribute important information.

"That's the part most of us can remember being part of homeroom," said Mr. Snyder, adding that while homeroom is a routine part of the day in other school districts, PHS has not had one for several years.

Another aspect of SLC will be a motivational talk before the start of the second half of the school year, where students will be encouraged to set goals for the second semester. The talk will focus on second chances, and how to recover and get back on track, said Mr. Snyder.

Once spring sets in and graduating seniors begin to catch "senioritis," they will participate in a talk about why it is important to continue striving to do well in school, even if they have already been accepted to the college of their choice.

On early dismissal Wednesdays, groups of teachers will get together to study student data and discuss instructional strategies and how to improve students' overall performance.

A total of 23 out of the 36 Wednesdays during the school year will be early dismissal, said Mr. Snyder.

"A lot of the pieces are coming together," he said, adding that eventually the school is looking to use early dismissal Wednesdays for student programs as well, including community service and senior projects.

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