- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

RIRIE, Idaho (AP) - School can be tough, but it’s even tougher for students who are falling behind.

At Ririe High School, officials have kicked off “flex time” - a program designed in part, to help those struggling students from falling through the cracks. The program is part of a student improvement plan at Ririe aimed to reduce the percentage of students failing classes.

The idea - a 15-minute “flex time” period is inserted in the school day, in which students with below “Cs” or missing assignments report to the class where they’re not meeting all required expectations. That often equates to a “catch-up” period, in which students work on homework or receive additional help from teachers.

“We feel like (the 15 minutes) accomplishes two things,” Principal Chad Williams said. “First, there’s some accountability, and then, it gives students some extra one-on-one time with their teacher . and I think it raises teachers’ awareness. The students are getting a daily, ‘Hey, you have an F or a D or a missing assignment’ - and overall, I think it also helps the students who are getting ‘Cs’ but maybe could still use some extra help.”

Students who have all required assignments completed and are earning satisfactory grades, are free to do as they wish during this time, typically an extension to their lunch period.

Flex time, along with the student improvement plan, were started in November 2013. Officials have been pleased with progress so far, Williams said, although he believes flex time is only part of the picture. Ririe also started monthly staff meetings to discuss students of concern.

Records show about 3 percent of Ririe students had an F during the second trimester of the 2013-14 school year - down from 5.8 percent the prior trimester. Third trimester Fs were 5.6 percent and Williams said he’s optimistic to see results from this trimester.

Some of the roughly 60 flex-time students said the added time has significantly helped them, including 15-year-old Kadree Hunter. A freshman who said she struggles with pre-algebra concepts such as fractions, Hunter said the extra time to work with teachers and complete assignments has meant less homework in the evenings. Her math grade this trimester has risen from a D- to a D+.

“I feel like I ‘get it’ more,” she said. “I get what (the math) is about, now.”

Other students, such as 17-year-old Matt Myers, aren’t so fond the class period is mandatory, rather than optional.

“I don’t think it’s really helped me that much,” he said. “I feel like I’m at the same level I’ve been at through the whole year.”

Math teacher Marian Packebush believes success with flex time depends largely on student’s willingness to improve.

“Some students will come in here and they’ll just do everything they can do not to accomplish anything,” she said. “They’ll work just as hard not to do anything . of course everyone would rather have a longer lunch, but it makes it worthwhile when they have all their papers coming in and have higher than a D.”

Ririe isn’t the first school to offer flex time - a number of other area schools, including Bonneville Joint School District 93’s Rocky Mountain Middle School, use the program.

“For us, it’s been fabulous,” Rocky Mountain Vice Principal Thomas Kennedy said. “It’s really benefited every student. Even the student who does well - they might be absent or they don’t get (a concept) - the next day they can go and get help from their teacher.”

Shelley High School tried the program for a portion of the 2013-14 school year, but since ended it. The school saw student improvement, but managing students’ whereabouts became organizationally too difficult.

“I think it’s a great program - it just became a nightmare to keep track of 650 kids,” Shelley Principal Dale Clark said. “So, we’re looking for something else to help our kids be more successful.”

At Ririe, to make up the flex-time period, a minute is added to the end of each school day and the lunch period. Additionally, 2 minutes are shaved off each class period. Williams said he’s still waiting for to see how successful the flex time idea is, but so far, things are looking positive.

“I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone until we get through this year and we’re successful for five to six trimesters in a row,” he said. “But we’ve set record lows so far for as long as we’ve been able to track it, and we’re pleased with that.”


Information from: Post Register, https://www.postregister.com

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