In 2010, CASH was fortunate enough to become an awardee of the state Department of Educations’ MassGrad Initiative.  This was initially a three-year initiative focused on improving the graduation rate of students by incorporating three strategies, chosen from a menu supplied by DESE.  Based on the results of the needs assessment, the following strategies were implemented for this initiative: Graduation Coaches, Credit Recovery and Positive School Climate.  By incorporating these strategies into the CASH culture, MassGrad would address both the academic and socio/emotional challenges facing students and the learning community.  With the success of this programming, CASH received an additional two years of grant funding from the MassGrad Initiative to continue progress through 2015.  

    A major cornerstone of CASH’s success story is the ability to adapt to the changes in student population since the move from Hyde Park to Fields Corner.  The move to a new location resulted in new and different needs and causing the community to quickly and effectively re-evaluate strategies designed to meet students’ needs.  With such a drastic change in student population, seemingly overnight, our focus as educators needed to shift from focusing on our original population (predominantly Haitian Creole speaking ELLs) to a focus on the multiple needs of a more diverse student body.  With new students, there were new native languages, numerous academic gaps, and high needs.  CASH had resources available, but were they the resources that would be the most effective at supporting the new students?

    The school needed one lynchpin structure to coordinate both the social/emotional and academic needs of students.
    Graduation Coaches - Teachers and support staff members have taken on roles as advocates for students Coach and progress is reviewed in weekly meetings.  Students have acknowledged the value of having a coach who will support their ideas and work, motivate them to evaluate their challenges, and develop an attainable graduation plan.  The coach is someone who will listen to them, not judge them, but have the necessary “reality-based” conversations to help move a student forward.  This is truly a major paradigm shift for our school.  The students now see this process as collaboration between adult and student, rather than a top-down decision-making process.  CASH Graduation Coaches have evolved into a strong, cohesive voice for students and the school community-at-large, which has developed over the past three years.  We started with three trained graduation coaches and in using the train the trainer model, CASH now has seven coaches available to engage with students.  This model is sustainable and will continue to be a critical support for students.
    GM Credit Recovery - CASH currently offers students an array of opportunities to access credit recovery in a range of formats.  Study Island is a technology-based model which has proven more successful with our younger students.  Students who have not passed a term in a specific course, and who may be at risk of failing a course for the year, are assigned to a Study Island class twice a week.  With this preventative format, students can recapture credit before they have failed an entire course, move forward, and be on track for graduation in four years.

    Although credit recovery through online courses was an option for schools through the district prior to the MassGrad Initiative, we looked at the data for successful completion of assigned online courses, especially for our special population.  We realized that more supports were necessary for this to become a powerful strategy for our students.  We developed the role of the credit recovery coach, and have two/three coaches working with the students during the course of the year.  Credit recovery coaches are there to check in with students on their progress, but they also provide motivation to persevere and support when a concept is not understood, to communicate with the graduation coaches regarding each student’s progress and challenges.  This collaboration between the credit recovery and graduation coaches is critical for student success.  Even the school librarian has become a credit recovery advocate and works constantly to assure that all of our students have a Boston library card so that they can access their credit recovery courses within the community in which they reside, if they do not have access at their home.  Just last year fourteen additional students completed course requirements during the summer months and were able to earn their diploma.