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SALT LAKE CITY -- The first year transitioning from junior high to high school can be tough. Many students might not understand that failing a class as a freshman can have more of a ripple effect than failing a class in junior high.
Highland High School Principal Paul Schulte says, "If something falls between the cracks, if I fail a term of English or those types of things, I have to recover that."
Schulte says the trick is to make sure young students understand they are more accountable for their grades than before.
"If you create a situation where students are held accountable for their work -- not only be held accountable for it but they have to have the support to catch or make up or, preferably, keep up -- then they do better throughout their entire high school career," he says.
Highland High has a program called the Freshmen Success Team. It's run by three counselors that Schulte says have 100 years of experience between the three of them. They closely watch every single grade for every freshman in the school.
"On Monday, they pull the reports off of the electronic school system and check (the freshman class') grades and see what grades are missing and what assignments are missing," he explains.
Students who fall behind in their assignments, or whose grades start dipping, talk with a counselor to get a game plan on how to improve.
"If a student becomes more chronic, let's say for instance, we've met with him a couple weeks in a row, then they're required to come in every day during lunch, with their lunch. We have students from the National Honor Society that give them peer tutoring," Schulte says.
They also try to get students to form a social network during their freshman year. Their "Pick Two" program encourages kids to choose two activities. That way, young students get to meet more students than just those in their regular classes. Schulte says these programs are part of a comprehensive plan to ensure freshmen don't fall through the cracks.
Highland isn't the only school in the district to focus on the new kids. East High School has its "Lead" program designed to help prevent at-risk students from dropping out.