With almost one-half of the school year complete, early grade data shows success for the Jefferson Freshman Core Program. This is the first year that all ninth graders at Jefferson are enrolled, a building-wide shift based on the positive results from the BlendEd program over the last several years.

The results are encouraging, with a couple weeks left in the first semester. “Our grade data is exceeding expectations,” says Charlie Goetzinger, Jefferson’s Freshman Core facilitator.

Last year, only half of the freshman class was involved in the BlendEd program, which was the precursor for this year’s Jefferson Freshman Core. “The positive results that we anticipated when the program was expanded are now being seen,” adds Goetzinger. At this point in the year, the expanded success data is translating to the entire freshman class. “All the data is there for why we expand. It’s holding true, and kids are adding more credits. That’s what matters here.”

The Core Program is helping students realize that grades matter, credits matter, and classes matter. In addition, it lays a strong foundation for a positive four-year experience for first-year high school students. Currently, the class is sectioned into four different cohorts of students.

“What is different is the half-hour blocks of time,” explains Goetzinger. He adds, “Every class has two half-hour chunks with an additional half-hour of workroom time.”

“Those workroom times are dedicated time for students to work on material, to ask for help, to go to a teacher, to do a reassessment, or maybe sit in on a class for a second time,” adds Goetzinger. “Whatever it might be, for each student.”

Another asset for teachers in each student cohort is using a simple technology tool to quickly and effectively communicate throughout the day, so all this happens in real time. For example, teachers can share positive news on a student, or attendance issues, missing assignments, scheduling for student assessments, or if a student is having a rough day. In addition, teachers can help strengthen their relationships with students to meet them where they are and help support them along their educational journey.

Jefferson classroom chairs that are ready for students to collaborate.

Another piece helping teachers in the classroom is furniture designed to assist with student collaboration—desks with wheels that enable students to gather quickly in small groups. As a result, students can work collaboratively on various projects throughout the day.

Despite the many successes, Goetzinger says there is still room for ways to make it better, based on the needs of the students.

“An area where we have room to develop, as students reach proficiency in the core subject areas, is providing students with deeper, more authentic learning. This will be the key to the enrichment piece,” says Goetzinger. “Pushing students deeper into project-based tasks helps expand their learning.”

A Jefferson Core teacher instructs students on the tasks for the day.