Support programs draw little attendance
Of the 775 ninth graders at Blair, approximately 216 are currently academically ineligible with first quarter grade point averages (GPAs) below 2.0, according to ninth grade administrator Edith Verdejo.
Because mid-year transfer students arrive with an automatic 0.0 GPA, Verdejo said the statistics may not provide a complete picture of the freshmen class.
While 70 of this year's academically ineligible freshmen are repeat ninth graders, the totals mark the second consecutive year in which over 200 freshmen finished below 2.0 after first quarter. When the class of 2011 completed first quarter last school year, 212 students were in the same position, Verdejo said.
Resource counselor Marcia Johnson said the transition from middle to high school may explain some students' academic struggles. "Coming from a small middle school to a school of 2,900 can be very difficult," Johnson said. Verdejo added that attendance and work habit problems also play into student performance. "It's a combination of those three that have caused this problem," she said.
According to Verdejo, previous initiatives like academic support and after-school tutoring have not been as helpful as administrators initially hoped due to low attendance. "The supports we have in place are very effective only if kids agree to come consistently," Verdejo said. Programs such as Academic Infusion offered by the Blair Sports Academy have been successful for students who regularly attend, but maintaining that high rate of attendance is the biggest hurdle, Verdejo said.
The administration is focusing especially on students who may not receive enough credit to move onto the next grade level, according to Principal Darryl Williams. He said that he and Verdejo have ninth grade teams in place to support students and observe work, study and behavior habits.
Williams and Verdejo also held a meeting for parents of ineligible students in the Student Activity Center on Nov. 20. Blair administrators discussed differences between middle and high school, explained basic concepts of GPA and credits and stressed the importance of student responsibility. "When kids get to high school, parents tend to start being hands off," Verdejo said. "But instead they need to realize how important high school is and encourage their children to do the best they can."
Verdejo also plans to hold meetings with all 216 freshmen soon. Upperclassmen who were once in similar situations will be invited to speak to at-risk freshmen about the importance of good grades and active participation in tutoring programs. "Many of these kids are living day-to-day and do not realize how this will really affect them in two or three years," Verdejo said.
Johnson believes that students' personal accountability will rise as they become acclimated to Blair. "The most I can say is that the number of honor roll students increases from ninth to twelfth grade," she said. "And this is just because students are adapting more as they move on through high school."
The number of freshmen with a 3.0 GPA or higher also warrants recognition, Verdejo said. "We have 356 ninth graders with a 3.0 or higher but we always tend to focus more on kids who are unsuccessful," she said. Out of those students, 292 made honor roll with a GPA of at least 3.25.
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