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MailTribune.com
  • Some students forgo a spring break

    Intervention program gives them time to make up missed work, earn graduation credits
  • South Medford High School senior Omar Armas was more than willing to give up a few days of his spring break if it meant graduating with his classmates on June 7.
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  • South Medford High School senior Omar Armas was more than willing to give up a few days of his spring break if it meant graduating with his classmates on June 7.
    Late Tuesday morning — around the same time as his friends were likely rolling out of bed — Armas was poring over algebra equations at school. Jeremy Stahmer, a special education teacher at South, and two math teachers were nearby to provide assistance and instruction as needed.
    Armas, who's set to join the U.S. Air Force later this year, said that to be on track to graduate in June, he needs to retake an algebra test, make up an English quiz, complete his "book talk" and wrap up assignments in his Contemporary Issues class.
    "Instead of going to summer school, I go this week, and I'll graduate on time," he said.
    About 120 seniors were invited by teachers and counselors to South's spring break intervention program to get help with their senior projects, make up missed coursework and earn credits required to graduate.
    South Principal Kevin Campbell said he counted about 65 students on Tuesday — the first day — and some students who weren't invited showed up on their own.
    Some students worked in small groups. Others worked independently. And seven South teachers were on hand to assist these students as needed.
    The intervention services offered this week at South, North and Central Medford high schools, both middle schools and Jacksonville Elementary, as well as those that will be offered later in the year at other schools, are funded by money the district budgeted specifically for intervention programs.
    "We're looking at increasing student performance, student achievement and student success and, ultimately, our gradation rate," said Superintendent Phil Long.
    In a message addressed to the budget committee last April, Long proposed that the budget "allow for more instructional time and academic interventions for students who are struggling to learn."
    This spring, $405,000 was divided among the district's 14 elementary schools and five secondary schools to be used for intervention programs designed and directed by each school.
    Around $15,000 was allocated to each elementary school and Central Medford High, $30,000 to the two middle schools and $45,000 to North and South, Long said.
    Providing this type of support has been on the district to-do list for quite some time, said Todd Bloomquist, director of secondary education.
    "We're all a little shocked that we're actually in a spot where we have intervention resources for kids, which is what we've been wanting to do," he said.
    Teachers and principals at each school reviewed their school improvement plans to determine where those resources were most needed. Principals submitted their plans to the district before spring break.
    Based on these proposals, Long said the intervention programs would provide more than 850 hours of additional instructional time and affect about 3,500 students.
    The intervention proposals for 11 schools have been posted on the district website. More will be added over the next few weeks.
    Washington Elementary purchased reading and math workbooks to give to 400 students this summer and hired a teacher from each grade level to provide additional instruction in reading and math to select students during the week.
    Ruch Community School, which runs Tuesday through Friday, will offer four hours of "real-world learning activities" to about 50 students on Mondays.
    Jacksonville Elementary elected to offer three days of math-related activities during spring break and six days of math and reading exercises during the first two weeks of summer.
    This week, three teachers are at Hedrick and McLoughlin middle schools to help students prepare for the upcoming state assessment tests, offered later this spring. Both schools also will offer summer sessions to help students reach the academic requirements of their grade.
    Last year, North Medford staff identified about 40 seniors who were struggling and brought in a support team over spring break to work with these students, Long said. About two-thirds got caught up.
    "That was our first clear example of what targeted intervention and extra support can do," he said.
    Long plans to recommend to the budget committee at the April 29 meeting that it budget for these types of interventions in the coming school year as well.
    On Tuesday, South Medford English teacher Greg Bryant met in the school library with five seniors who hadn't begun their 8- to 10-page senior paper, due later this month.
    Campbell said some students put the project off because either they don't know where to begin or find it too intimidating.
    "Sometimes it's just about getting their feet on the ground and getting them going in the right direction," he said.
    Dennis Singleton, a South senior who gave up sleeping in to be at school, said he was almost done with his senior paper.
    "I'm not worried about it, but I am worried about this," he said, pointing to an Algebra 1 test.
    A few seats over, Joe Roberts was trying to figure out whether it was a better deal to buy a single 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull or a 24-pack of 12-ounce cans of Red Bull. The unit price project was one of the essential skills required for his math class.
    "I'm just trying to get my grade up," he said.
    Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.
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