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updated: 8/31/2012 5:08 AM

Elk Grove H.S. trying to help 'at risk' students

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Elk Grove High School is making an extra effort to keep students from falling through the cracks with a new intervention class for some sophomores, school officials said.

The program is not only aimed at keeping students in school -- Elk Grove ranked a close second to Wheeling High School for District 214's highest dropout rate, according to the 2011 state report card -- but also to give at-risk students a more successful high school experience overall, said Principal Nancy Holman.

"As a whole our student body is moving forward, but we've got a few who struggle like at any school," said Glenn Simon, associate principal for instruction. "Rather than resting on the fact that most of the students are doing well, we want to make sure we are serving the needs of all of them."

This fall is the first class of the Grenadier Intervention Academy, a group of 20 sophomores who were identified by teachers and counselors after a difficult freshman year.

Simon said the district looked at what qualities students who struggled had in common -- issues at home; poor grades; a lack of involvement in school activities -- and identified which students would be best suited for the program.

The program is one of many tools the school uses to reduce dropout rates, help at-risk students and give students the resources they need to succeed, Holman said.

Although there is similar programming available at Forest View Alternative School, Holman said this is the only opportunity for students to receive this level of attention and resources while at their home school.

In looking at student data, administrators noticed that some juniors or seniors had actually been struggling for years.

"We've got to intervene early," Holman said, adding that indicators of a struggling student are often visible as early as elementary or middle school.

"Otherwise their frustration and their struggles compound and get worse each year."

In the Grenadier Intervention Academy classroom, each day begins and ends with time for students to think about their day, their goals and what work needs to get done.

Instead of switching classes and teachers for each subject, the academy is taught in one classroom by one teacher and an aide -- with a larger focus on social and emotional learning in addition to the core curriculum, Simon said.

"These are kids who want to succeed at Elk Grove High School, but they are just struggling in the school environment like many do," Simon said.

Holman said the program is also looking for possible adult mentors to come speak to the class about their careers and what allowed them be successful in high school and beyond.

Though the school year just started, administrators said one indicator that the program is successful so far is that attendance -- typically an issue for many of these students -- has been good.

Officials will be looking for other signs of success from the students as the year progresses, including how many classes the students have passed, how their grades have improved and how ready they are to jump back into the daily high school grind.

Students who are ready can leave the academy at the semester break; others will stay for the full year.

"Any kid at Elk Grove is capable of success," Simon said. "But any kid is also capable of struggling."

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