SPECIAL SERVICES @ C.A.S.H.
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?
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 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.
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