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Every student succeeds

by Minden Press-Herald

MHS “Roll Blocks” program looks to improve student progress

Caleb Daniel
Special to the Minden Press-Herald

As reported last Thursday, the Webster Parish school system has received new growth data demonstrating student progress on LEAP 2025 assessments. As the school system finds ways to best address these results, a new program at Minden High School is seeking to catch students who are falling behind long before these assessments begin.

Beginning the second week of school this year, all MHS students were placed in “Roll Blocks” – 45-minute, largely not-for-credit courses designed to bring students who may need extra help back up to speed. The school day was extended to accommodate this initiative, and the new courses take place in the middle of the day.

Roll Block courses fall under one of three categories: remediation, for struggling students who need immediate assistance; intervention, for at-risk students who may soon be struggling; and enrichment, an opportunity for students not struggling to learn a new skill or give back to the community.

“It’s a tiered system,” said MHS Principal Becky Wilson. “You’re going to see fewer kids in remediation, a few more in intervention, and then the most in enrichment. These remediation classes are very small on purpose. These students need intense help in small groups.”

The enrichment classes include things like piano lessons, archery, and yoga. There are also classes for college credit through dual enrollment and AP Art.

Most of the Roll Block classes are not for any kind of credit, designed to give students in remediation or intervention a time and space in which they can catch up on their other studies or receive individual help from teachers who know their situation.

“I talk to the teachers a lot about how there may be days where we just need to work on building a relationship with the child and find out what’s going on, how can we support them,” Wilson said. “We know for some of our kids, their safest time of the day is being at Minden High School. So how can we support them even in what’s going on outside of school?”

Elementary schools across the parish have used a similar system for years, but that is where the model stops.

Inspired to learn if it could work at a high school level, Wilson and the school leadership team journeyed in January to North DeSoto High School, which carries an “A” School Performance Score.

“They call their program WIN, which stands for ‘just What I Need,’” Wilson said. “They let us go in and see what was happening in these classes and how they had it organized. Immediately our whole team thought, ‘We need this for our kids. This is a game changer in a student’s life.’”

After conducting extensive research into similar models across the country, the MHS administrators discovered a consistent trend of student growth in schools that employed these programs. The next step was identifying which students belonged in each type of Roll Block.

“This summer we spent weeks trying to divide up every student where they needed to be placed,” Wilson said. “With 830 students, it took a very long time. My administrators Kelli Tims and Nathaniel Richardson and counselors Whitney Cate and Sherie Lester were 100 percent on board with me. We went over test scores, grades, credits, and student input to make sure we knew where they needed to be placed. Over the Christmas break, the five of us will be here again going back through 830 students all over again. It’s worth the sacrifice.”

Wilson said one of the main goals of the Roll Blocks program is to ensure all students have someone on the faculty who is intimately familiar with their situation, so that no child falls through the cracks in the system.

“The teachers have caught on to this vision,” she said. “By using these Roll Blocks, they can say, ‘These are my 13 or 10 children, and I’m going to help them.’ They’re going through each of their Roll Block students’ grades in other classes once a week, checking on them and making sure they are doing what they’re supposed to do. Even in enrichment courses. Every teacher is working to help each kid succeed.”

Wilson said the sacrifice by teachers and students to extend the school day has allowed MHS to focus on individual students in a way that was not possible previously.

In the past it’s been course, course, course, get what you need to graduate,” she said. “Now we’re enabled to say, ‘There’s so more to you as a child. We value you so much more than just your graduation.’”

Some Roll Block courses are for-credit for students who may not have enough credits to graduate otherwise. While the not-for-credit classes are 18 weeks long in order to lift students out of remediation as soon as they no longer need it, the for-credit courses run all year.

In addition, some enrichment classes allow students the chance to visit elementary schools in the Minden area and serve in the classrooms, read with students, and help them with math.

“Students love Roll Block,” Wilson said. “I’m thrilled to hear these stories that teachers and students are telling me. Even the kids in intervention and remediation classes, it’s hitting them that they needed this and didn’t even know it. One of our basketball players called me over the other day and said, ‘Thank you for this. I’ve never had time in the day to stop and get things done.’”

While enrichment courses offer exciting opportunities to learn new skills, Wilson said the focus of the program is the remediation piece, helping struggling students realize their capacity for learning.

“I was worried about my remediation teachers,” she said. “It’s going to be tough – you’re really having to help this kid see the value of education and find what’s keeping them from being successful. But these teachers are getting the most out of it in their heart. They’re seeing all the life-changing differences.”

Wilson said there are certainly things that will need to be improved, and her long-time vision includes allowing enrichment students to volunteer at local businesses in their future career area, as well as potential partnerships with area community and technical colleges.

“As a first year, we know we’re going to find some areas we need to tweak, but four weeks in, we couldn’t be happier with what’s happening,” she said.

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