Evanston Township High School administrators have developed a new “brand” for AM Support, with the goal of increased attendance for the morning academic assistance program.

“It’s about packaging it so that students don’t see it as a negative,” said Oscar Hawthorne, assistant superintendent/principal told the District 202 School Board at their Sept. 29 meeting. “It really is truly a support.”
AM Support is a key component of the System of Supports initiative (SOS), now in its third year of implementation. Students who are receiving less than a C- in any given class are referred to AM Support, a voluntary program under which they meet at 8 a.m. with the teacher of that class for additional assistance. Compliance with the referrals has been low in the past – 40 percent of students referred in the most recent report – although the results for students who do attend have been positive, according to the school’s review of the program last spring.

Grades Available Every Three Weeks

Mr. Hawthorne also announced that grades for all students will now be updated every three weeks. Previously, grades were first sent out halfway through the first quarter as interim progress reports. Board president Rachel Hayman suggested that parents/guardians be alerted by e-mail or telephone about the three-week updates.

In addition, parents/guardians and students will able to access grades, schedule and attendance information online through the ETHS Home Access Center https://had.eths.k12.il.us/homeaccess/.

Also new to SOS this year will be a change in the oversight structure, replacing the Steering Committee – which has “has run its course,” said Mr. Hawthorne – with a core team with the support of academic, behavior and community teams.

Early Student Enthusiasm

Mr. Hawthorne said that as part of the “rebranding process”, all freshmen were invited to attend AM Support at the beginning of the school year, whether or not their grades justified it.

“They are so enthused,” he said. “It’s really through this year’s freshman class that AM Support is now taking on a new look. They’re making connections with teachers.”

“We’re trying to build our community of learners and building it into the culture,” remarked Board member Mark Metz. “We have to maintain our focus on the timeliness … the individualized help …it sounds like we’re really moving this program forward and I’m very happy about that.”

Other efforts this year include an actual invitation sent by teachers to students whose grades indicated a need for additional assistance.

“When students attend AM Support, we want them to have something tangible to do,” said Mr. Hawthorne. Some teachers are also announcing tests ahead of time and inviting struggling students to come in for additional help, he said.

Concerns: Too Many Students, Not Enough Help

Student board representative Alex Block confirmed that the new approach is having a positive effect on attendance, but also reported some concerns about efficacy.

Mr. Block said that there were many more students in classrooms during AM Support and that the atmosphere was very “inclusive,” but he said that half the students say being there did not help them.

“They say ‘I went into my class and there were 15-20 other students there and I wasn’t getting this math problem and . . . the teacher didn’t have time to help me and go over it,’” Mr. Block related.

“We wanted that first week of school to be as positive as possible,” said Mr. Hawthorne.

Mr. Hawthorne said that department heads have been charged with the responsibility of coming up with ways to deal with the numbers of students at AM Support. “We are going to make sure that students in danger of failing are going to get the support they need,” he added.