Model Practice Narrative
- Description of Model
At Hopkins, we try to explore as many avenues and methods as possible for success for all students. Among our different strategies, there is one relatively new practice that we believe factors into a growth-mindset and shows off the changing culture of our school: FLEX.
In 2017 through the work of PLCs, our teachers recognized that some of our students were not mastering standards after their first try and needed extra support and intervention. One of the obstacles our teachers faced was finding time to reteach curriculum that not all of their students required. Therefore, our teachers voted to adjust instructional minutes to include a thirty minute FLEX period each week. Every Thursday, right after lunch, students had the ability to travel (with prior approval) to any of their teachers. Students could see their teachers during FLEX to make up missed work or receive extra help on assignments or assessments. However, we did not want to limit FLEX to intervention only. We wanted this time to provide other opportunities, such as enrichment and special events. The idea of FLEX was to allow for FLEXible activities, depending on the needs of our students. During our pilot year, both students and teachers expressed how much they appreciated the positive effects of having extra time to provide enrichment and/or intervention, so much that in 2018, our teachers voted to add an additional FLEX period to the 2018/19 school year. We now have FLEX every Tuesday and Thursday, right after lunch, for 30 minutes. Our FLEX model is truly flexible, and it leaves space for students to explore interests as well as receive intervention.
Our staff has been taking on an "our students" mentality to intervention. Ideas for FLEX have been discussed and presented during professional development and staff meetings. With the help of instructional coaches and Curriculum and Instruction liaisons, our teachers have been provided with different strategies for how they can utilize FLEX. For example, after assigning and scoring a common formative assessment, the 7th grade World History teachers identified all of the students from each of their classes who did not meet the desired learning outcomes of their current unit. All of those students were presented with FLEX Passes to have the material reinforced by the teacher best positioned to re-teach the curriculum. It did not matter which class those students were in; the students were divided into groups based on their specific learning needs.
Parents have also shown their support for FLEX. They appreciate knowing their children can get the necessary help they need during the school day. Many of our students participate in extracurricular activities, which decreases the amount of time they can focus on school work at home. Parents take comfort knowing their students can get a head start on their homework or get extra help on assignments before they leave campus instead of having to seek help from an outside tutor or an after-school intervention program.
In addition to the different types of interventions happening each week, students report that they enjoy FLEX time, even if it just allows them to get a head start on homework, study for a test, work with classmates, read a novel, or to experience some of the fun extension activities. We have had guest speakers and activities covering, but not limited to, kickball tournaments, Finance Fremont student presentations, creative writing, TUPE presentations, Lions of Fremont Peace Poster Work, Gender Spectrum training, science experiments, committees (i.e. Dress Code), and many other fun and invigorating topics for students to choose from. We believe FLEX takes us down a path that helps us reach our goals of lowering stress for students while maintaining high expectations. Students benefit from having the opportunity to increase their knowledge, which will result in raising their confidence. The more our students know, the better they perform.
One unique student group that has benefited from FLEX are our EL students, which make-up 3.5% of our total student population. Every Tuesday and Thursday, our dedicated EL teachers support our EL students with different strategies, such as clarifying vocabulary, annotating text, reviewing material through the use of games, and assisting with writing using sentence frames. Our EL teachers pre-teach information our EL students will need to better understand the content before it is presented, and they provide more visuals to support their learning. Our EL students are demonstrating tremendous growth, and many of them have been reclassified.
FLEX has also been effective for our students’ social-emotional and behavioral needs. For example, FUSD is implementing Restorative Practice, which “takes a restorative approach to resolving conflict and preventing harm.” Restorative Practice allows “those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps” to restore the harm they may have caused. FLEX has been used to facilitate Restorative Circles and Conversations. These circles/conversations have reduced conflict on campus, which has naturally resulted in fewer suspensions. Students are learning how to communicate and problem-solve as well as take responsibility for their actions Restorative Practice provides a safe environment for these conversations; FLEX provides the time for these conversations to happen.
FLEX is directly aligned to our school’s LCAP. Our four LCAP goals are 1) Provide an educational environment that is conducive to learning; 2) Increase the academic achievement of all students through challenging and engaging instruction; 3) Implement strategies to involve students.in their learning and interventions to eliminate barriers to success; and 4) Establish partnerships with our families and community to increase academic success for all students. FLEX provides our students multiple opportunities to improve their learning. Students receive both intervention and enrichment strategies/lessons to increase their achievement. They are given choices on how they spend their FLEX time, which results in higher accountability and ownership to their learning. Our parents have been supportive of FLEX and appreciate what it can offer our students. Finally, FLEX has linked students with our community through various programs/opportunities.
While FLEX may not directly address chronic absenteeism, it has provided extra support for students who have been absent, whether it be for one day or several days. Students may utilize FLEX to help them make-up work/tests they missed while they were not at school. FLEX allows students who were absent to meet with their teachers and ask for additional help, especially if they are struggling to understand the new material. FLEX helps decrease the stress of students who were absent because they know they will have time built into the day to gain the necessary support they need to get caught up with the rest of their class. FLEX eliminates the guessing game of “When will I be able to talk to my teachers?”
- Implementation and Monitoring
Parents have often commented on how much they appreciate the options provided to their kids through FLEX Time. Even missing a period for a dentist appointment can add stress to a family if it happens to mean missing a test or quiz during a certain period. Students have a chance to make up missed work twice a week during the school day. There is another way that parents have been able to engage with teachers and staff at school during FLEX. Since one of the goals is to also be able to offer extensions on learning, FLEX provides the perfect time to enlist parent or community experts/volunteers to come in and work with students. We have had yoga, knitting, coding, journalism, art, augmented reality, debate, Lion’s Club, local politicians, district forums on bullying, stress release techniques, and backpack organization, just to name a few. It is true that many parents want to find ways to participate and help; it is also true that many twelve and thirteen-year-olds do not want their parents at school (it is too embarrassing.) We continue to look for ways to strengthen our relationships with stakeholders to build opportunities for students. In only its second year, the Hopkins staff is proud of where we are with FLEX time.
Students are notified about various activities they can sign up for during FLEX via our online communication tool called School Loop. School Loop allows administration or teachers to notify students of links and information so they may request a travel pass for a FLEX activity. These passes allow our school to manage attendance and/or locate students, if needed, as well as manage the number of students who may participate in a particular FLEX activity. Teachers control the size and number of students who attend; 100 kids can’t just show up in a math classroom.
Parents receive notification of events via School Loop as well. They have information shared with them either in a direct message or on our news page. Updates are also given by the principal at Parent Faculty Association meetings and in our newsletters, which are translated and sent out to everyone. Hopkins maintains a Twitter feed in which various activities are highlighted. twitter.com/hopkinshawks
In spring of 2018, the administration created a student survey to gauge the level
of popularity with students and to figure out how the kids were using FLEX. Over 600 students responded to the survey; 90% found FLEX to be useful, and 88% wanted to maintain or increase the amount of FLEX days/week. When asked to rank primary uses of FLEX time, there were a few top responses: completion of homework, studying for tests and quizzes, group work, reading, making up assignments/quizzes, and getting extra help.
The data from the student survey was shared with staff before they were asked to vote on whether or not to increase from one FLEX day/week to two days/week for the following 2018/19 school year. The Hopkins staff voted three to one to increase from one day to two days. There are plans for a similar survey for parents in the spring of 2019.
Paid participation in professional learning communities (PLC’s) is an option for all teachers in Fremont. FLEX time at Hopkins is voted on by the staff. The majority of teachers do participate in PLC’s, and this collaboration works hand in hand with the goals of FLEX. When staff looks at what they want students to know (viable curriculum), how will they know if they got it (assessment), what to do with those who didn’t get it (intervention), and what to do with those who did get it (extension), the paid after school collaboration works perfectly for teachers to focus on questions 1 and 2 while working together. During the day, they are able to focus on questions 3 and 4 with kids based on the results of assessments. Ultimately, we have staff looking at common formative assessment results and issuing a travel pass for those who need extra help while offering extension activities to build on skills or to introduce new skills to those students who are ready to move on.
Meanwhile, administration and counselors often host specialty events during FLEX, such as Principal’s Advisory Committee (made up of 7th and 8th graders), Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE), Where Everyone Belongs activities, and Dress Code Committee. Para-educators have become valuable resources at Hopkins for math intervention during FLEX time. They are able to work with small groups and in one-on-one situations with some of our most at-risk students.
Hopkins staff analyzes and disaggregates data to maintain high levels of equity and fairness for all students. Though grades, attendance, and test scores are high overall, we still have underperforming subgroups, such as English Language Learners, African- American students, students with disabilities, and Hispanic/Latino students. While the achievement gap still exists, we are seeing growth in some of these areas. For example, as highlighted on the California Dashboard Accountability system, English Learners increased by more than sixty points on the English Language Arts Smarter Balanced Test (they made huge gains in math as well.) CA Dashboard
In February of 2019, we have a scheduled Supporting our Students (SOS) meeting in which a FLEX time swap meet will be taking place to share best practices. The school will share with the broader community those collected activities.
- Results of the Model Program/Practice
The goals of FLEX are pretty simple: offer targeted intervention, extensions to learning, and to lower stress. These are not as simple to track and follow. One of the difficulties is that students can travel freely to visit another classroom or teacher, and the “help” being offered may not (and in many cases is not) coming from their own teachers. There are some teachers who just do math or EL intervention, even though they don’t teach that subject. This means connecting the help to course work or grades directly becomes difficult.
For intervention, there are some areas that we are able to keep track of data to use when planning for FLEX in future years. We can look at the overall number of zeros on class and homework assignments. We can also look at the increase or (hopefully) decrease in the number of D’s and F’s. In the spring, we will be able to look at the Healthy Kids Survey data results to see if students are self indicating they have lower levels of stress, which may be connected to the addition of a second FLEX day during the 2018/19 school year.
Since FLEX time is not a class with grades, benchmarks, or even assignments, tracking quantitative data can be a bit tricky. We believe that there is corollary quantitative data that is directly impacted in a positive way by having FLEX available for students. The history department, which also has one hundred percent participation in PLC’s, has tracked “zeroes” over the past two years. The 7th grade World History team has agreed on a policy in which students have multiple opportunities to complete missing assignments or assignments in which they received a zero. With two days a week built into the school day, they have been able to cut down on zeroes by almost twenty five percent. As FLEX is still relatively new, we hope to expand on the data collection in other departments (and do a little bragging for those who are truly using it to focus on student learning). We have been able to cut down on the number of D’s and F’s after one full semester this year compared to the first semester numbers in 2018.
Qualitatively speaking, teachers report working with kids. For some students we may not be able to see immediate results, but we are hopeful that the foundations are being strengthened, which will yield positive learning results in the future. There are times when teachers report a lack of time to be able to teach skills because they are required to rush through or cover such a large amount of curriculum. FLEX provides the ‘flexibility’ to bring kids in and teach note-taking, or vocabulary, or organization, or study skills, or how to be a better collaborator.
Attached is a screenshot of a shared document used by teachers to “advertise” some of the available specialty Flex events/sessions occurring in a particular week.
This table shows a few of options that are open for kids to attend (or be invited to). This only highlights what is happening for those teachers who don’t have kids assigned to them. All 46 teachers have something happening during FLEX.
The main data that will be helpful for us in determining if we are meeting our FLEX Time goals will be looking at numbers of D’s and F’s in our underperforming subgroups as well as growth with these groups on standardized testing scores as reported by the California School Dashboard.
Since Hopkins is still in the exploratory stages of FLEX as a true system- wide targeted intervention, we are currently piloting a few small samples to see how it works. Two of the FLEX Prep teachers pull EL student to work on science and math. The English and ELD teachers have historically been better trained to work with students with language needs. Science and math teachers have less training by and large to meet these needs. FLEX provides them with the opportunity to meet in small groups and help strengthen academic language in the content area for students, even if they are not “in my class.” The school has adopted the “our kids” motto; it doesn’t matter which class they are in. We all want to help.
Since FLEX is essentially instructional minutes offered during 5th period twice a week (similar to Sustained Silent Reading in other schools), there are some teachers, those with 5th period prep, who don’t have students assigned to them. These teachers are available to cover for their colleagues half of the time, and for the other half they set up pull-out interventions/extensions. As we look forward, this is another area that the school leadership team feels like it can sharpen and aim in a more targeted direction by ensuring that specific teachers who are willing to work with target groups are granted the time to be able to do so during FLEX.