Germantown: Low Test Scores and Poor Behavior Lead to Changes at Germantown High School

Bryanna Burgess, Ebone Bryant and Aallyah Burgess walked home together after they were let out of school. w=540 h=398]

For the first time this year, Germantown High School is now a Promise Academy. Starting in September, the students received an extra hour of education on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. In addition to extra instructional time, the students have seen a more rigorous program and an increase in hall monitoring.

“There is a lot more discipline,” 11th-grade teacher John Grobb said. “Overall it’s a much better situation.”

The school had to make the transformation into a Promise Academy because of low test scores and poor behavior among the students.

“Just looking at the data from previous years it’s not as good as it should be,” said Reggie Johnson, the vice principal at Germantown High School. “We know we have a lot of work to do in order to get the scores where we think they should be.”

Vice Principal Reggie Johnson and 11th-grade teacher John Grobb talked about student learning.

According to last year’s test scores, only a few students scored above the proficiency level. “We had 9 percent in math and then 13 to 15 percent in English score above proficiency,” Johnson said. “I think our target is to double that number.”

In the past four years, the students’ scores have not fluctuated much.  According to preliminary 2011 PSSA Data, students in the 11th grade had their worst reading scores in 2009, with only 13 percent achieving proficiency.  In 2010 only 8.5 percent of those students were proficient in math.

On the other hand, the school had more juniors hitting the reading proficiency level in the spring of 2011, with 16.1 percent. In 2008, 11th-graders had 13 percent reaching proficiency levels in math.

Recently, the students took their first predictive tests for this school year. These tests are used to asses how well the students have been doing in class and will allow the school to make changes they need to improve the students learning.

“They didn’t do well, but that’s good because we can see what we need to change in order to make them better,” Grobb said. “A lot of it is comprehension, focus and reading.”

Grobb has taught in the Philadelphia School district for eight years and he said a big problem with Germantown High School is the fact that the students struggle with reading.

“The reading level ranges from third grade up,” Grobb said. “They want to do better, but then there is a lot of confusion.” He said the reading problem can be partially blamed on technology. “Everything is so instant, I’m afraid they’re loosing ability to imagine. So when they read now it’s boring.”

In order to promote focus and comprehension Grobb has tried his own tactics. “I have them draw pictures to represent vocabulary words,” Grobb said. He has words like, tempus fugit, modus operandi and moustrum glued to the walls of his classroom. “It does work, but even if it doesn’t, they need to stay focused and follow criteria.”

John Grobb displayed the top scores from his 11th-grade English class.

In addition to improving current scores, the school is now giving students the chance to fix some old ones.  “We’re offering them an enrichment period, credit recovery and also allowing them to develop programs on their own,” said Johnson, the vice principal.

Grobb offers his students something he likes to call “once a quarter clean-up day.” Students can re-organize vocabulary cards, make up missed assignments and take missed tests or assessments,” Grobb said.

In the near future the school will be starting classes on Saturday. “It’s not just classroom learning, but it will be good to make up things they missed,” Johnson said. Along with the option of making up missed assignments the students will receive extra instructional time and enjoy field trips and fun activities.

Ebone Bryant, an 11th-grader at the school, said she knows that the test scores aren’t good and the school needs to get better. “I’m doing a lot better this year than I did in any other year,” Bryant said. “It can be tiring sometimes, but at the same time I don’t have a problem with it.”

Bryanna Burgess, Ebone Bryant and Aallyah Burgess walked home together after they were let out of school.

Freshman Aallyah Burgess said her first year of high school is a lot different than middle school and she really has to pay attention. “I know like what to do, If I pay attention maybe I’ll get good grades,” Burgess said.

She isn’t the only student concerned with attention span. Bryanna Burgess is a sophomore at Germantown High School. “The days feel kinda longer,” Burgess said. “The beginning of the day is cool then I get tired and drained as the day goes on.”

Vice Principal Johnson said it is going to take a lot of work to improve the school. “It’s not just one size fits all approach to learning. They need support, they need encouragement and they need challenge to be their best.”

He said the teachers and the students need to work together in order to reach their goals. “The work drives the culture and then you have the culture that drives the work,” Johnson said. “Everyone is expected to be successful, everyone is expected to do their best and that is our goal here.”


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