Guest post by Michael Pflugrath

As schools work to support struggling learners, it is important for school leaders to reflect on the effectiveness of their intervention programs and strategies. How do we know whether the interventions are enough to help students? Do these programs and strategies meet students where they are and provide equal access for all students to learn? 



Caption: Pflugrath assisting a student with her STEM project. Photo Credit: Megan Miller

As we look at our intervention programs and strategies at South County High School in Lorton, VA, we ask ourselves these same questions. While we are doing many things right, we continually work to ensure equity for all of our learners and improve our intervention programs.

What Are We Already Doing?

Our intervention programs and strategies already have many positive attributes. Common assessments help identify students in need of intervention. We screen students for social services and other needs including economic, behavioral, and mental health. Our instructional interventions are implemented early to provide targeted services. The master schedule is designed to maximize instruction and includes time for remediation and enrichment. Our leadership team protects teacher common planning time, and instructional and assessment coaches work with collaborative teams to improve strategies and review data.

Meeting Students Where They Are

Even with this strong intervention program, there are still students who struggle and would benefit from more support outside of class time. What we’ve realized is that our academic supports need to be more physically accessible and meet students where they are, in locations and at times that they are available and more able to participate. Our vision is to provide interventions during the school day at school, after school in the community, and on weekends—with equal access for all students.

To bring this vision of equal intervention access to life, we implemented three academic supports:

  • The South County Learning Center offers tutoring sessions on a daily basis during the school day. AP students are available to tutor in math, science, language arts, social studies, and world languages. Students can access the SCLC at lunch (it is located next to the cafeteria) and get help on assignments and studying. Even though it is the first year for the SCLC, many students use it regularly. On average, 20 students visit the learning center every week. Student feedback has been positive; students appreciate having the SCLC accessible during lunch and working with the AP student tutors.
  • SCHS Lorton Library Tutoring Program is an after-school tutoring program at the community library. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m., certified high school teachers are available to tutor students in all core classes. Our district works with the library to furnish the necessary technology and provide free after-school snacks. Though the program targets low-income students, it is open to everyone. On average, 25 students each week consistently come to the library for tutoring. Having a quiet place for students to work outside of school has made a big difference. Many of our tutors become mentors to struggling students and leave a lasting impression on their lives.
  • The MAC Scholars Program is a yearlong program that offers tutoring, mentorship, and college-readiness preparation to minority students. Our school worked with the local PTA to provide these services to students in our school library two Saturdays a month. This year, over 50 students regularly participated in the program. There is an awards ceremony at the end of the session to celebrate our successes. Each weekend session has a different theme on a variety of topics, including resume writing, college applications, standardized test prep, and community service. To see the full list of topics, click here.

Each of these programs seeks to meet students where they are and provide them equal access to academic support to help them succeed in school. We believe that every student matters and should be supported to promote student success.

What are you doing to meet the needs of struggling learners? How do you meet students where they are? 

Michael Pflugrath is an assistant principal at South County High School in Lorton, VA, which is attended by over 2,200 students in grades 9–12. He is the Virginia Assistant Principal of the Year and a National Finalist. Follow Pflugrath on Twitter @SoCoAP.

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