Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Prairie High School look a little different than the rest. Instead of sitting in classrooms, students--armed with notebooks and pens--chat in groups at tables or flock near teachers' desks, patiently waiting for a few moments of the mentor's time. It is on these two mornings each week of the school year that students have the opportunity to get Falcon Support, or help from their teachers to make up work, study, and ask questions about the materials presented during class time.
Prairie offers Falcon Support to its students for 40 minutes two times each week during the first period of the day. While students are not required to attend Falcon Support, those who do most often see results in the form of higher grades on coursework. The overall goal is to help students succeed and graduate, said Prairie High School Principal Travis Drake. And with a graduation rate that consistently hovers above 91 percent (compared to a state-wide graduation rate of 77.2 percent in 2014), Prairie has one of the best graduation rates in Clark County.
Once upon a time, Falcon Support might have been called study hall, and it might have been offered outside the regular school day. In today's education world, it's considered an academic intervention. For several years at Prairie, the intervention was called STAT--Student Teacher Access Time--and it was on the schedule every day for 30 minutes either before or after a student's lunch. Prairie's staff decided to change up the program this year when it became clear that discipline issues occurred most often during the school's lunch hour among students who chose not to participate in the daily study hall and instead took a long lunch.
When they saw the need to re-evaluate the study hall, staff researched what other high schools in the state that are similar in size to Prairie offer for built-in academic intervention. Their research found that 29 of 42 schools offer an intervention period. They also looked into when other schools offer the study time and learned that the clear majority of schools--23 out of 29--offer it in the morning between class periods and that five schools offer it before first period. Prairie teachers discussed the possibilities and chose to offer Falcon Support before first period so that students would seek help in the subject areas in which they need it and not be tempted to stay in one classroom just because it is convenient when Falcon Support begins.
The study time is optional for students, but on a recent Tuesday morning many classrooms easily had ⅓ of their seats filled with students. In Tad Oman's class, a constant stream of students formed a short line at his desk. Students waited patiently to present their pre-calculus and algebra 2 questions to him.
Many students worked in pairs. At one table, seniors Natalie Whitesel and Becca Dougal discussed math and English. The girls use the time to study and complete homework because their after-school availability is limited by sports, drama and other Associated Student Body (ASB) activities. "It's really helpful," Dougal said. "It's nice if you have a test later in the day and can use the time to study." Both girls said the time helps them to understand the material and equates to better grades.
"It's really beneficial for the kids who use it," said Kathy McManamy, a math teacher at Prairie. "They are asking questions and getting understanding. The hard part is getting the students who need to come to come in."
Prairie has taken measures to encourage students who need help to get it during Falcon Support. Teachers send personal invites to students who receive low grades, and some staff have volunteered to work with specific students and establish quality relationships with them in hopes that they would improve their class work. "You can't discipline a student to be motivated," Drake said. "But building a relationship goes a long way in getting a student to step up. Falcon Support works as well as any intervention I've seen with the resources we have."