Courtesy of San Benito High School:
San Benito High School introduced Academic Focus Time sessions this year to provide an equitable instructional system that provides additional support for all students. While a small percentage of the student population previously accessed the additional support offered by teachers outside of classroom time, a significant percentage had to navigate through barriers — often out of their control — that discouraged or prevented them from taking advantage of these opportunities outside of the bell schedule.
The implementation of AFT sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays allows SBHS to mitigate these barriers to growth. These 35-minute sessions include intervention time for instructors to re-teach and re-assess and students to re-learn. Not all students grasp an essential skill or concept on the first, or in some cases, subsequent attempts, so with a mindset of growth, the AFT system provides students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery.
The goal of intervention AFT sessions is to provide students with multiple opportunities to learn or receive additional instruction about a difficult concept. Often, students in Intervention AFTs are completing work they missed due to an absence because of illness, appointments, athletic events or field trips. Examples of these sessions are midterm test prep for Government classes, math reteaching and review sessions, English writing conferences, and online grammar practice.
Some AFT sessions are designed for enrichment, allowing students to extend their content learning. Social-emotional and college and career readiness support are offered in some AFT sessions and the Monday Homeroom sessions give students dedicated time each week to select their AFTs for the week, have a positive connection with another adult on campus, and give the school dedicated time for non-academic, school-wide activities such as mandated emergency drills.
Enrichment AFT sessions have included topics such as creative writing (English and Spanish sessions), Roman and Greek mythology, audio mixing basics, the chemistry of fireworks, drama improvisation and college math prep.
Re-take sessions provide students multiple opportunities to show mastery. This may be in the form of re-taking a quiz or test, revising a writing assignment, or revising a project. Examples of these AFTs are English test corrections, Spanish and French quiz re-takes and Algebra I and II reassessments.
The goal of a study hall AFT is to provide students time to complete classwork and homework tasks. Some staff members have created collaborative and interactive study halls while others have fostered sessions focused on quiet, independent work. In all cases, the teacher is available to answer individual student questions.
The SBHS Counseling Department and other staff members and administrators have used the AFT system to schedule recurring events, offer academic and career guidance, and assist students with scholarship, financial aid and school applications. Counselors met students who were absent for pre-scheduling to they would not lose additional class time and met with groups of students to review transcripts and explain graduation requirements. Some teachers offered presentations on advanced and AP courses.
The counseling staff, special education staff and others provided multiple opportunities to benefit from social-emotional learning. Many of these AFTs taught coping skills, including time management, practicing self care, yoga and mindfulness, stress management, dealing with depression and how to have a better second semester.
Other AFT Options
AFT sessions have also covered personal development, special education, school-wide testing and student stakeholder participation. The Student Congress now meets monthly during Homeroom on Mondays and the following day during AFT time. This provides class representatives an opportunity to share student concerns without missing class, as was the case in the past. Students have led some AFTs this year, such as a session on protecting the environment organized by the Environmental Awareness Club.
The AFT session is a work in progress that is constantly evolving with student, staff and administrative feedback. In Year 2, growth areas will include providing stakeholders with data about successes and challenges, ensuring that study halls are collaborative and active, and teaching students to reflect on their grades so they can improve their selection of AFT sessions. Staff will be provided professional development sessions to help with planning and providing AFTs.