LIVINGSTON -- Getting an F on a report card isn't acceptable at Livingston High School.
A new program was launched this school year to make sure some of the 290 freshmen don't fail and will have a successful four years.
Called the Wolfpack 9, the "targeted intervention" program in educationspeak keeps tabs on poor-performing pupils but doesn't let much time elapse before extra efforts are put in place to try to help them.
"We start right away to try and turn them around," academic counselor Karen Creighton said. "It's no longer acceptable to have even one F; we need to do something about it."
Principal Ralph Calderon said about 120 of the 290 freshmen are at significant risk of failing right from the start. Poor grades or unacceptable behavior are clues given by at-risk students.
"We want to make school relevant right away," Calderon said. "We intervene right away to catch them before they fail. We don't let them fall behind ever. We make sure every kid crosses the finish line."
Scott Weimer, associate principal for guidance, said these freshmen have a common fourth period class which includes exploration of career possibilities, an introduction to information technology, art, public service and health.
"We will give them a hook tying other classes to what they want to do," Weimer said. Thirty junior and senior Link Crew students meet with freshmen to explore career lessons and cover decision-making goals. It has a unit on what is costs to live in the real world, including paying bills.
Every two weeks students turn in their grades and these are checked for failing grades. Twelve freshmen teachers meet together to evaluate grades and determine how at-risk students can be helped.
Creighton said in her visits with students she sometimes asks if a family needs help.
"We're a family, and I don't want you to go away," Creighton said. "We want to help them be successful at our school. We are creating relationship with kids and asking why they are struggling and if they need to talk about it."
Adam Blauert, a social studies teacher, said it's harder for students to get lost on the Livingston High campus.
"We've seen the F rate going down," Blauert said. "The most rewarding part of it is when the student gets excited and wants to learn more about a career. They see the point of building these skills."
In a six-week hands-on approach, Blauert explores careers in public service, art, information technology, as well as first-aid and CPR skills. Students learn about firefighting, nursing, emergency dispatching, law enforcement, court reporting, the criminal justice system, park service and emergency medical technician fields.
"We're hoping this course is one where school makes sense for them," Blauert said.
Calderon said the focus today is making sure students are learning. "It's not about if I presented the material," he said. "It's about whether the student learned it."
He said teaching techniques from the 1950s, 1980s or even the 1990s don't work now and today's teachers are working harder than ever to change their approach to instruction. Part of that means making sure students are engaged and involved in the subjects they are learning.
Making students more accountable for their learning also is part of the picture. An academic support class helps freshmen organize their reading logs and binders, along with maintain a daily academic calendar.
Calderon said there was a 5 percent reduction in failing grades during the fall semester. All administrators meet regularly with at-risk freshmen and all teachers are watching out for students, whether they are in their classes or not.
Two field trips are included in the freshman program, to the Exploratorium and Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Freshmen also will learn about Merced College's associate of arts programs.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.