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The School Improvement Team (SIT) proposed “the creation of a staff-student mentoring model … designed specifically to meet the unique needs of Evanston Township High School students” as its primary recommendation to the D202 School Board on June 13.

SIT Co-chair Alison Hart said the student mentoring recommendation was the one that “rose to the top” when SIT members engaged in a “prioritizing activity at their second-to-last meeting of the year.”

SIT looked at the qualitative and quantitative information gathered by the previous year’s group working on the idea of a staff-student mentoring model, Ms. Hart told the Board, and thought about how a program could be designed that would be “workable within the ETHS community and … make a stretch about how we are mentoring students and how we could do it better.”

First, SIT suggested that a committee be formed, consisting of a wide range of administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and community members, to come up with the model.

Then, SIT set forward the following components that it felt should comprise a quality staff-student mentoring program:

• A significant and consistent four-year relationship for every student with adults who are role models, who are invested in the students’ success, and familiar with the resources available through the high school.

• Teacher-student relationship-building time, including time to reflect on academic progress and set goals, and time for counselors to meet with individual students rather than pull-out time.

• A guiding – but not scripted – curriculum to ensure that all student experiences are consistent, but that allows mentors some flexibility as well.

• The program should target every student at ETHS.

The recommendation made it very clear, as well, that the student mentoring role should be voluntary and not an additional responsibility for teachers.

The report continued that the “program would include the teacher-mentor monitoring student grades and attendance, addressing issues and concerns, intentional outreach to families, connecting students with resources, and involvement in student disciplinary actions.”

Board member Deborah Graham voiced enthusiastic support for the proposal. “Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about,” she said.

Board member Jonathan Baum was equally supportive.

“Establishing this kind of … mentoring is probably the single most important thing we could do at this point,” said Mr. Baum. “The very best thing about ETHS is the vast array of opportunities … and the worst thing is the lack of adult guidance in accessing those opportunities.”

Mr. Baum said that he hoped that the work on the program would progress quickly enough so that a proposal would be ready in time for the budget planning for the 2012-13 school year.