Freshman Focus
Southern Wayne High School
Nationally, 70% of students graduate from high school. Of those students who drop out, one third of them do so while in the ninth grade. Many other drop outs do not wish to do so and repeat ninth grade several times in an effort to remain in school. the ninth grade is the key year for students in determining whether a student will drop out or remain in school and graduate. According to Hohns Hopkins University:
  • Success in academic course work is more telling than demographic factors, prior preparation or previous test scores.
  • 9th grade course attendance is 8 times more predictive of 9th grade failure than 8th grade test scores.
  • Students who miss two or more weeks per semester during 9th grade fail, on average, at least two classes - even if these students come to 9th grade with high test scores.
  • Students receiving more than one "F" in one semester in 9th grade are likely to drop out (without interventions).
  • Nearly 90% of 9th graders, who miss less than a week of school per semester graduate, and half end 9th grade with a B average or higher.
  • 9th graders who earn a B average have an 80% chance of finishing high school with at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • 9th graders with less than a C- average are more likely to drop out than to graduate.
  • 9th graders with GPAs in the C- to D+ range (about 1/4 of all 9th graders) who miss one to two weeks of school per semester need support and without it will likely drop out.
There is hope. What are needed are the right interventions for the right students at the right time with the required intensity. It is possible to greatly reduce the number of drop outs at Southern Wayne. Students who successfully navigate grades 6 to 10 on time and with the necessary courses, by and large, graduate from high school (75% or higher graduation rates). The key is the successful transition between middle school and high school. Students who struggle and become disengaged in the early secondary grades and particularly those who have an unsuccessful 9th grade transition do not graduate (20% or less graduation rates) without strong interventions. In the past schools have relied on students to correct their own academic, attendance, or behavior problems iwth little assistnace or interventions. The most common and very harmful response to struggling students is that "they'll grow out of it" - and so schools wait. Typically, students don't recover, they drop out. These types of strategies do not work which is one reason for such a low graduation rate. It is obvious that students do not "self-correct" without help. It takes early - right away, same morning, same day, same week - immediate care and intervention. This is essential.
To address the problems identified above, Southern Wayne High School has implemented a comprehensive, systematic, and sustained whole school reform that addresses the ABC's - Attendance, Behavior and Course-passing. This program, Freshman Focus, is aimed at alleviating the problems of poor attendance, behavior and achievement. The curriculum is divided into ten modules that begin with the start of the school year and conclude on the last day of school. Each module has specific objectives designed to cover the many social and academic issues and topics that ninth grade students need to be successful in high school. Modules are designed to build from one to the next in both content and intensity. Additionally, they are meant to be timely so that issues being discusses in Freshman Focus correspond to events and activities happening at the school and in students' lives. The ten module are:
  1. High School Survival Skills - designed to give incoming freshmen the basics they will need to know to get through the first couple of weeks of high school. They need to be able to navigate their way through the building and begin to understand the many differences between middle school and high school.
  2. Relationships and Activities -helps students understand the importance of relationships in high school - relationships with the adults in the building and relationships with other ninth graders in the Focus classroom. Students also learn about school activities, clubs, and althletic programs that are available to help make the most of the high school years.
  3. Make the Grade - is the first academic module in the Freshman Focus program. It is imperative that ninth graders get off to a good start academically, and this can be accomplished through the teaching of study skills, note taking skills, and learning styles. Students also learn about the resources available to them at school to help build academic success.
  4. Who am I? - is an introduction to the study of culture and diversity in Freshman Focus. Ninth graders need to develop an understanding of themselves, what they believe in, and how they relate with everyone else in the school building. Activities and discussions create the opportunity for freshmen to answer the question, "who am I?" and prepare for deeper examination of culture and diversity.
  5. Exploration of Others - is a continuation of the work that started in the previous module in which stuents began to identify their own personal beliefs and values. In this module, students begin to explore the beliefs and values of other students - and how they're similar and different. Through powerful activities and discussions, freshmen recognize the harmful effects of stereotyping and discrimination and identify strategies and techniques to make sure these negative actions are not a part of their lives or school.
  6. The Crunch - returns to the academic side of the Freshman Focus program. Typically falling at semester exam time, this module focuses on study skills, test preparation strategies, and time management. Students also begin to set goals for themselves - both immediate and long term goals and they polan for the future.
  7. Getting Along with Others - tackles the issue troubling high schools nationwide - bullying. Through activities and well-structured discussions, ninth graders get a firsthand glimpse at the negative effects of bullying. The module teaches strategies for developing a positive self esteem and healthy, effective ways to resolve conflict with others.
  8. Leadership - introduces students to the characteristics of effective leaders. Ninth graders assess their own leadership skills and learn strategies to become better leaders. This module also provides students with information about leadership opportunities within the school.
  9. Wellness - is a focus on the self- how to deal with stress, how to relax, and how to self advocate. This module creates the opportunity for discussion of peer pressure and drug, alcohol, and tobacco use.
  10. Careers and College - is about the future. It is important that freshmen begin to think about life after the ninth grade year and even after high school. In this module, students map out course choices for the rest of their high school years. They also plan for post-secondary life looking at colleges and careers. This module was designed using an interactive career website called Career Cruising. For more information about using Career Cruising , go to

Freshman Focus is taught during a 30 minute period called Saint Success. This 30 minute period is scheduled between first and second periods.