With the Lumberjacks as our mascot, the pride of R.A. Long High School dates back to 1927. Ninety-two years later, we have lifted the minds and spirits of our lumber town’s community with a true 97 percent graduation rate, with many students the first high school graduates in their family and the first to go on to college. We built that momentum, with little in the way of additional resources, through a coordinated series of programs and activities we call the Jack Way. Here’s how:
Jack Camp is our freshman orientation, where incoming freshman spend two days going through a variety of activities to get them comfortable with anything and everything R.A. Long, including:
- Learning how to appropriately participate in spirit assemblies, including response cheers taught by cheerleaders.
- Meeting coaches and signing up for athletics. All coaches and captains are present to speak with students and get students signed up for various sports.
- Meeting club advisers and participants. Advisers and club participants are there to speak with students.
- Twelve rotations, including:
- Interactive notebook training.
- C-Note training.
- How to graduate.
- Team building.
- Grit training.
- Introduction to clubs.
- Amazing Race 1: Students get their schedule and have to run around and find the fastest route between classes, as well as open their lockers.
- Amazing Race 2: Students sign into the nurse, the main office, schedule appointments with their counselor, and sign up for sports and other activities.
- How-to: Students learn how to write an email to a teacher and how to navigate inter- and intrapersonal relationships.
- Student panel: Graduates come back to answer questions.
- 1:1 Devices: An overview of the responsibilities and care of 1:1 devices.
Jacks’ First Eight Days
I plan the first eight days of school for teachers to ensure that the schoolwide expectations are taught in a consistent manner. This also gives counselors time to change schedules without students missing information. During the first eight days, students participate in:
- Safety training and drills.
- Strategy training, including C-Notes, academic language, code switching, points of confusion, etc.
- Common assessments created by PLCs to use for student growth goals.
- Team-building activities. Our goal is to have all students know the names of all of their classmates by the end of September.
- Review of the student handbook and #JackCode (our nonnegotiables).
Jacks’ House is our new student center. All newly enrolled students receive:
- Safety training
- Strategy training
- Help setting up interactive notebooks for their classes
- Opportunities to sign up for clubs and sports and meet coaches and advisors
- A tour of the school
- Review of each class syllabus
- Preassessments for each class
- Introductions to other students that speak their native language (if applicable)
- Connections to other new students through weekly lunches.
Jacks’ Academy is an intervention center where students can:
- Have a quiet place to work, make up tests, etc. (initiated by the teacher)
- Receive academic intervention (initiated by the teacher, counselors, coaches, or administrators)
- Receive behavior intervention (initiated by teacher or administrators)
Every Friday for 45 minutes, we schedule grade-level advisories called Jack Time. During this time, students participate in:
- Targeted academic intervention (For our special education department, students with individualized education plans who have D’s and F’s meet with paraprofessionals to get individual tutoring.)
- Assemblies, all of which are scheduled during this time in order to hold our classroom time sacred
- High School and Beyond plans, including activities from resume writing to SAT prep to Adulting 101
- Access to teachers for additional help or retake tests, etc.
#RALearn is more than our hashtag. It’s the way we do business in all classrooms at R.A. Long. As an AVID Schoolwide Site of Distinction, our common expectations build on the AVID model and include:
- Interactive notebooks. All classrooms use interactive notebooks, and some are even preprinted.
- Point of Confusion. Posters hang in all classrooms to alleviate “I don’t know” responses from students by walking them through what they do know and helping them identify the point at which they are stuck.
- 10-24-7. Reviewing material and notes after 10 minutes, 24 hours, and 7 days.
- Learning targets, rationales, and success criteria posted daily.
- WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading). These AVID strategies include posters in every classroom, monthly WICOR sheets posted outside every classroom, quarterly peer observations, and monthly WICOR professional development.
R.A. Long University
Every junior goes through this college preparation program in their English and social studies classes. Activities include:
- Completing the Common College Application
- Completing scholarship applications
- Writing college entrance essays
- Completing the FAFSA form and financial planning
Reinforcing a College-Bound Culture
Every ounce of our focus involves assuring that students have every door open in front of them when they are handed a R.A. Long diploma. To do this, we:
- Ensure all juniors complete R.A. Long University.
- Put up posters in the hallway featuring students accepted to college. The posters have the student’s picture and read, “From the hallways of R.A. Long to ___________” with a picture of the college’s logo. We also put up posters for students that enlist in the military and trade schools. Students also receive T-shirts that read “College Accepted.”
- Teachers have college corners in each of their classrooms which describe their college journey to teaching, along with pennants and college logos.
- Ensure that every senior completes their FAFSA form.
- Senior social studies teachers offer Adulting 101, including demonstrating how to tie a tie, iron a shirt, and complete other life activities.
Across all these programs and activities, we stress consistent expectations with support and reinforcement—“gentle pressure, relentlessly applied.” On Wednesday, every staff member rocks t-shirts that say, “Your Culture is What You Allow,” knowing that staff and students will rise to the expectations we set.
The Jack Way can be done with little to no additional resources. What are you doing to create a culture of success, perseverance, and risk-taking for all of your students?
Lacey Griffiths is in her eighth year as a high school assistant principal overseeing special education, English, social studies, AVID, safety, and all things students at R.A. Long High School in Longview, WA. She spent 12 years at the middle level and loves working with students with the greatest need of advocates so that she can believe in them until they believe in themselves. She is the 2019 Washington State Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter at @LaceyGriffiths8.