At Treasure Mountain, new program equals more learning
‘Intervention time’ helps students stay ahead in class
December 27, 2016
In the first quarter of the school year, Treasure Mountain Junior High School saw a 4-percent reduction in Ds and Fs compared to the first quarter of 2015.
The school didn't do it by changing what students are learning in the classroom. And this year's crop of students isn't 4-percent smarter than last year's eighth- and ninth-graders. So what's changed?
Put simply, the school is providing more time to students who need extra help. Every Tuesday through Thursday, students are participating in "iTime" — short for intervention time — for 30 minutes before the final class period of the day.
Teachers bring in students who are falling behind to go over homework or retake tests. Other students — even ones considered gifted and talented — can choose to get extra help from teachers, too, or spend the half hour studying or catching up on homework. Other students can participate in a range of enrichment activities teachers offer, such as small engine repair, a book club, open gym and Spanish karaoke.
Principal Emily Sutherland said the intervention time is based on the formula that learning should be the constant and time the variable — in essence, the school must do everything it can to ensure all students are succeeding.
"It's a response to the philosophy that everybody requires different amounts of time to master concepts and to learn," she said. "Probably most adults have had an experience in their lives where they just didn't get it the first time, and they needed to go back or needed a little extra instruction. The problem is a lot of our students who need that often can't accommodate before or after school."
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So far, Sutherland added, she has received positive feedback from students and teachers, alike.
"We're going to keep gathering data, but so far we're seeing a positive result from it," she said.
Count Sam Thompson, a technology instructional coach at the school, among the believers in the intervention time program. He oversees the small engine repair offering and said students are responding to the chance to participate in an activity not offered in a typical classroom environment.
"I think it's huge," he said. "There's an empowerment that you're giving the kids. All day, we dictate what it is that they do and when they're going to do it and how they're going to do it. And that 30 minutes is their time to empower themselves to pick what is of interest to them. What I've noticed in talking to teachers, kids seem recharged after because they've had that opportunity to do things that are a little bit of a break from the structure of the rest of the day.
"I don't know if any of these kids will go into auto mechanics or anything like that, but I feel like there's a problem-solving component and other things to it," he added. "There are skills they'll use in whatever they end up going in to."
Sutherland said she initially wanted to implement the program last year, but many teachers indicated they weren't quite ready the change it would bring. At the end of last year, it was clear they were poised to take on the challenge this year. Through the school year's first four months, teachers have tinkered and tweaked the program in their own ways to see what works best.
Thompson, for one, says he enjoys leading the small engine repair course.
"It's fun for me because it's such a different thing from what I do on a day-to-day basis," he said. "It's somewhat selfish in the sense that I love tinkering with things, so I want to foster that in kids and give them that opportunity. We don't have enough of that, just a free, 'Hey, go at it and figure it out,' kind of thing."
Thompson added that he's excited to see how the program develops in the coming months and years.
"We're seeing the fruits of our labor," he said. "It's still not to the level that we want, but it's new and we're figuring out what works and what's not working. It's a good thing and I think it's what's best for kids — and that's what we're in the business of."