Crown Point Community School Corporation, Crown Point, Indiana
Grand Prize Winner: 5,000 to 20,000 Enrollment
When Mark Gianfermi started his job as assistant principal of Crown Point High School, it was July. Summer school, mandatory for students who had failed core subjects during the year, was in full swing. “I asked teachers, ‘Is this fun for you?’” he says. “They said, ‘No, it’s really hard.’”
Gianfermi met with the teachers to see if they could come up with a better way to do summer school so that the teachers and the students would want to be there. Their program, Summer Engage, earned the district a 2016 Magna Award Grand Prize in the 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment category.
Crown Point, in a rapidly growing area near the Illinois border, is a data-driven district, according to Superintendent Teresa Eineman. “Programs must show data over time to show success. We have a continuous improvement mentality. We modify or let it go if it isn’t working for our students.”
Crown Point High School had a large number of eighth-graders coming during the summer to take physical education classes. Gianfermi and his teachers wanted to combine the fun aspects of PE with English and math instruction and provide a much-needed transition for at-risk incoming ninth-graders.
Summer Engage is a six-week program, and it runs from 7 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. The group of about 70 students is divided, with one group going to academics—math, English, and reading—while the other group goes to PE. Then the groups switch during a 20-minute break.
“We noticed that it’s a good time to build relationships with the adults and other kids. Some are awkward and don’t know how to act toward adults. By the end of six weeks, they are acting more how we expect,” says Gianfermi.
During academic time, the students get up and move through different classes. “It’s a different perspective. It breaks up the monotony. At least it keeps their energy up, moving teacher to teacher,” says school board President Scott Angel. “We are doing what’s best for them, not just to enhance academics, but make it as fun as we can, while sticking to the rigor.”
Students are grouped into teams by the teachers, and they receive T-shirts with their team names. On Fridays, thanks to a partnership with a local business, the students go bowling at a nearby bowling alley.
The students are asked to be in the program based on a middle school teacher survey of their academic achievement, organization skills, and rate of work completion, among other items. Along with the academic boost, the program eases the high school transition. Students meet their teachers and their peers, and they become familiar with the high school building, all before the first day of school in the fall.
Other ninth-grade teachers take advantage of the time to meet their incoming students. “The biology teacher understands how important it is to get to know them, so he’ll come to show the kids the critters in the biology room,” says Gianfermi. The students also get to know some of the upperclassmen. National Honor society students and peer tutors come in to help and play games with them.
Crown Point High School has seen an increase in the graduation rate since Summer Engage started in 2010. The graduation rate has moved from the middle 80 percentile to be consistently over 95 percent. The students who attend the program have a greater chance of graduating in four years than their peers who choose not to attend the program.
“The results have been phenomenal and overwhelming,” Eineman says. “Students who struggle the most are achieving the most. Discipline referrals for freshman are down. The positive behaviors increase, and negative decreases.”