Freshman Academy helps transition to RHS |

Freshman Academy helps transition to RHS

The transition from eighth grade to high school can be a challenge for many students. At Rifle High School, Principal David Smucker and his staff have rearranged the schedule and their resources to implement a Freshman Academy to support the needs of their students during this transition.

The Freshman Academy program is focused around three components: All students have common core classes, all students have an advisory class with a designated teacher advisor, and teachers are provided deliberate collaborative-planning time to design rigorous work and discuss student progress among their common students. The academy is designed to ensure the academic and personal growth and success of Rifle High School students.

All 161 freshmen students participate in the academy. They were assigned to one of two “academic teams” ” the blue team or the gold team. Each team ended up with about 80 students and all of those students have the same teachers for English, math, science and geography. This allows teachers to work together to design rigorous lesson units and assist each other in creating engaging lessons. They can also discuss common students to see how they can best help each student reach his or her potential.

In addition, each freshman teacher has about 20 students for an individual advisory class. The advisors are the primary points of contact with the parents, and they develop a personalized, one-on-one relationship with their students and help monitor their academic achievement.

“No longer will parent’s have to try to contact seven different teachers to see how their student is doing; one phone call to the advisory teacher will generally suffice,” said Rifle High School math teacher Ken White. “Also, our advisory teachers will periodically contact the parents to celebrate their student’s successes as well as discuss any emerging areas of concern before they become problems.”

Though only six weeks into the school year, Smucker believes the Freshman Academy is making a difference in the lives of his students.

“The collaboration of the teachers has been excellent,” Smucker said. “They are talking about kids, they are talking about curriculum and they are talking about how they can support the many issues that their kids are having.”

He explained that he regularly sees staff members staying late to work with kids and support their academic and personal needs.

“The program has taken on a life of its own,” Smucker added.

As the school year progresses, he and his staff will begin looking at data, including attendance, student failure rate and Measures of Academic Progress testing data, to determine the impact of the Freshman Academy.

The program has already made a big impact on Ken White and how he assists his students.

“For my part, as a teacher and mentor, I already am much more aware, earlier in the semester of where ‘my kids’ are in their academic maturation and where they need help ” not just in specific subjects or topics therein but in the business of ‘being a student,'” he explained.

And the constant contact with the teachers on his team helps White gain a greater understanding of how to help the students, and that, he said, makes a big impact on the students.

“By working as a team, if one of us can’t ‘reach’ a particular student, the odds are great that one of the other of us can. And it’s a pretty powerful thing when the student realizes that they have four teachers pulling for them to succeed.”


The Garfield School District No. Re-2 would like to recognize the Colorado State Veteran’s Home as the Community/Business Partner of the month, and Claudia Craig as the volunteer of the month. Thanks for supporting the students of Garfield Re-2.


This month’s Exceptional Bus Students for the month of September were McKenzie Long from Highland Elementary, Diego Beltran from Rifle Middle School and Jesus Martinez from Rifle High School. Also nominated were Highland Elementary students Timothy Darrah, Chris Hanneman, Miranda Lange and Zach Wisniewski, Rifle Middle School students Nina Boynton and Chantel Leyba, and Wamsley Elementary students Taylor Gore, Adan Lara Miguel Navarro and Kylee Orgill. Congratulations to these fine students.

Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2. She can be reached at 625-7621.

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