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July 10, 2014

Duncan High to focus on freshmen in coming school year

DUNCAN — Duncan High School is establishing a mentoring program in hopes no freshmen will slip through the cracks when it comes to academic achievement.

DHS Principal Justin Smith said 108 freshmen failed at least one class during the 2013-14 school year.

“We need to catch those freshmen and get them off to a good start,” Smith told the school board on Tuesday night. “There is definitely a need to help them.”

Behavioral issues also have dominated by the freshman class last year, Smith said, noting that 440 of the 680 office referrals last year were ninth graders.

The behavior and academic issues  may be related to the initial freedom freshmen experience on the high school campus.

“There is an excess of freedom compared to the middle school,” Smith said. “There’s a larger availability of elective classes.”

He said the goal of the mentoring program is to provide a connection for the students with a teacher. Each teacher would have 10 to 12 students to mentor. Freshmen will spend about 20 minutes a day with their mentor, and all freshmen will have bully prevention curriculum.

The mentoring program will be combined with a Ninth Grade Center to provide more focus on freshmen during the 2014-15 school year. The Ninth Grade Center will be in the West Building at the high school.

In previous years, all students took lunch at the same time, which meant more teachers had to be on duty to make sure freshmen didn’t leave during lunch. Although freshmen have to remain on campus during lunch, upper class members can leave.

Because of the difficulty knowing all the freshmen, the school will institute a separate lunch period for freshmen, which will reduce the number of teachers needed on duty and  help keep freshmen on campus during lunch.

“Twelve teachers and coaches will spend their lunch period with freshmen,” Smith said. “It will take a lot of juggling schedules, but it will be worth it.”

With the addition of the Ninth Grade Center and the mentoring program, Smith said the school is focused on helping students achieve academically while addressing behavioral issues.

For the most part, the freshmen core classes will be contained in the West Building. Students will have to leave for science classes in the Science Building because of science labs. Upper maths and various electives will take place in the main buildings.

Smith said he thinks the freshmen center and the mentoring program will help increase grade-point averages and ACT scores, and will decrease office referrals.

“It will be real helpful,” Smith said. “It’s one of those things we need to start. It will get them off to the right start in high school.”

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