MVRHS academic intervention program aims to keep students in school

Protocol identifies barriers to engagement and attendance for at-risk students, then offers support in those areas. 

The high school is looking to prevent students from unenrolling by supporting them with targeted outreach and intervention.

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) has established a special protocol for supporting at-risk students by connecting with them, and getting them on track and engaged in learning.

Dhakir Warren, administrator of student affairs at MVRHS, said during Monday’s school committee meeting that the student assistance team (SAT) that meets weekly is a strong example of a cross-functional group that represents a broad swathe of school members, including guidance counselors, school psychologists, faculty, and administrative support professionals.

Through that group, Warren said, the high school looks at new intervention protocols to address some of the unique circumstances students are facing this year. 

He said the group looks at challenges related to attendance and academic performance, and determines what supports might best suit the needs of individual students.

After 10 consecutive days of missed classes, a student at MVRHS is eligible to be unenrolled. Principal Sara Dingledy explained that unenrollment at the high school is considered being a dropout, so the school is doing all they can to retain those students by keeping them engaged in their coursework.

“For us, unenrolling is just not an option — if a student is on our roster, is here on the Island, or even in some cases may or may not be here on the Island for part of the time this year, we want to maintain engagement with these students,” Dingledy said. “They have committed to the school, they want a diploma, and we want to make sure they get one.”

To ensure students have all the support they need, the school has established what Warren called a red-zone intervention protocol that seeks to catch students before they fall off the school roster due to lack of attendance or poor academic performance. 

Because there is no truancy program on-Island, Warren said, this protocol is necessary to address problems students may be having in or outside school that are preventing them from showing up and performing consistently. 

The criteria used to determine if a student is struggling and needs intervention is based on data gleaned from Powerschool, the integrated student information and learning management program used by MVRHS. 

“The criteria we use are students that either have three or more failing grades in primarily core academic content areas, coupled with 10-plus missed class meetings. Those students are classified as at-risk students,” Warren said.

He added that the school monitors how long students are on that list. After five weeks, if they are still on the at-risk list, the SAT team will determine how to engage them in the progressive intervention strategy.

The strategy has three phases, with the first being outreach and communication. “That is a multipronged approach, where we start that communication and outreach for students who are failing or having issues with attendance in a specific class,” Warren said. 

If the school still receives no response from the student or family, they engage with the school guidance counselor to reach out directly.

If communication attempts don’t yield changes in behavior, the school looks to the next phase of the intervention protocol, which involves members of the SAT team dropping in on students during their Zoom classes.

In the event a targeted student does attend one of their classes, Warren said, the teacher is asked to let the support team know, so one of the members can meet directly with the student in a breakout room.

“So we get all their classroom login information for the Zooms in advance, teachers are asked to let us know if the student appears. At that point, a designated member of the SAT team will drop in, take that student into a breakout room, and try to get a sense of what is going on so we can provide adequate support,” Warren said.

If the drop-in method doesn’t yield positive results for students, Warren said, the SAT team moves into the final intervention phase.

This phase, called the Return to Learn program, consists of home visits with students and their families to identify where they need help.

Since the launch of the Return to Learn program on March 2, Assistant Principal Jeremy Light said he and school interpreter, Brumelha Magri, identified about eight students in the final phase of the intervention protocol, and went to their homes to meet with them directly. “It’s really just, ‘What can we do to help you, what can we do to get you back in the building?’” Light said.

Since a significant number of students in the final phase of the protocol are English Language Learner students, Light said, Magri has been “instrumental” in making the necessary contact, and setting up the meetings with students and their families.

So far, Light said, about five of the eight students identified in that target area have since come back into the school, and are making steady progress.

To date, the Return to Learn program has conducted about 14 home visits.

Magri said the Return to Learn program has seen “a great outcome,” and she has already heard back from some families who voiced their thanks to the school.

“They are very appreciative of the fact that a school member took the time to go to their houses to talk to their children and make sure they are OK,” Magri said.