Applying the ‘70s Rule’ for At-Risk Intervention
The primary responsibility of all school administrators is to protect students against failure. If you live by this credo, your leadership will challenge the assumption that certain students are destined to experience learning problems based on their school history, socioeconomic status and cultural background. Experienced teachers and administrators have the tendency to tacitly accept the fact certain children will fall through the cracks and there is nothing that can be done about it.
Of course, this isn’t true. Our school district of 900 students in northeastern Illinois follows a simple and practical idea to deal with students at risk of academic failure. I call it the “70s Rule.” This rule is really a four-step process to build a safety net around struggling students. It provides teachers, administrators and parents with a way to identify and remove obstacles to learning. Student success is not guaranteed but it does coordinate various forms of remediation.
For a student to be minimally successful in school, there’s general agreement they must maintain at least a 70 percent attendance rate, a 70 percent completion rate (on assignments) and a 70 percent accuracy rate (on completed work). Implementing the 70s Rule begins by tapping into a school’s student database by actively monitoring individual student attendance, completion and accuracy rates. If a student drops below the 70 percent level on any indicator, a process is set in motion that is designed to ameliorate learning problems before failure occurs.
Here’s how the 70s Rule can work, based on the experience in my school district:
Attendance component: At the midpoint and end of each grading period, a designated staff person runs an attendance report for every classroom. Any student with 30 percent or more missing days (for whatever reason) should be reported to the principal. If the student has legitimate reasons for the excessive absence (prolonged illness, death in family, etc.), it is noted on the report. The principal evaluates every attendance-rule violation and determines whether a student is at risk of academic failure.
Academic component: At the midpoint and end of each grading period, teachers check their grade books or computerized records for any students who have dropped below a 70 percent completion rate on classwork and homework and/or have a course average of 70 percent or less. When a student drops below the threshold on either indicator, the student is considered at risk and we intervene.
Reprinted with the permission of the American Association of School Administrators. © AASA
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