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Students get second chance in after-school program

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Photo by Jason Ruiter. English teacher Lena Sherouse helps students understand concepts in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a 18th century sermon by American pastor John Edwards.

Photo by Jason Ruiter. English teacher Lena Sherouse helps students understand concepts in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a 18th century sermon by American pastor John Edwards.

Published on: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

By Jason Ruiter

After identifying 120 failing students, DuVal High School administrators, counselors and department heads created an after-school Credit Recovery Program that gives students a second chance to improve their grades from the previous quarter.

At the end of each academic quarter, the school reviews students’ grades. Then DuVal hosts an assembly to address the failing grades and enroll students who have failed a class in the after-school program.

The students stay after school from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for one of four core classes: math, science, social studies or English.

One DuVal junior was using the program to change a failing English grade he received as a freshman.

Recently-hired Principal Alice Swift reapproved the program last fall, appropriating money for teachers and bus drivers who stay after school. The project received approval by the previous principal as well, but the superintendent had not been notified.

Dante Marshall, who teaches social studies in the program, had students fill out a warm-up sheet with content corresponding to the class they failed — world history, government or U.S. history — and then gave them a thick packet to work on.

“That’s about three days work right there,” Marshall said. “If they don’t finish it today, they have to go home and finish it.”

In order to work on the correct content, teachers collaborate with each other about the type of coursework that needs reviewing. They also talk with the students about why they failed.

Changing a failing grade to a passing mark is great, several DuVal students said, but the coursework isn’t easy. If students participate in the program, they must notify their parents and sign a contract pledging their commitment to preparedness and appropriate behavior.

Lena Sherouse, who teaches English in the program, said that if students don’t keep with the contract, attend the after-school sessions, or do their homework, they would get dropped from the program.

“There are plenty of students who want to get in” and change their old grades, Sherouse said.

“We give them a reality-check. Sooner or later, they become accustomed to it because they get a second chance,” said Beatrize Laurente, a science teacher in the program.

DuVal has more than 1,700 students, and classrooms can exceed 40 students. But, the Credit Recovery Program has as few as 16 and no more than 24 students per room.

Sherouse was able to individually help students who struggled with the concepts of John Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a commonly analyzed sermon from the 1700s.

Dameon Powell, coach of the DuVal football team that went 9–1 this past season, loves it. The coach is able to constantly check his players’ grades and progress, and he can ensure that successful players can line themselves up for college scholarships. 

“One student got a full ride to Dean College,” Powell said.

Hoping the students experience success, program supervisor and school counselor Neal Fenner hopes to be able to gather statistics and  present a formal pamphlet to the superintendent so other schools may gain from it.

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