Johnston high school offers freshmen FAST track to success
Posted February 8, 2012
Smithfield, N.C. — The transition between middle school and high school can be difficult for many students, and failing classes as a freshman increases the likelihood that a student will drop out.
To help struggling ninth graders, Smithfield Selma High School has started a new program to help students get back on track without losing a year.
"Research shows if (a student is) not promoted to the tenth grade, that vastly increases dropout potential," Assistant Principal Chris Kennedy said Wednesday.
So the school developed the Freshman Assistance and Support Team, or FAST program, which allows students who fail freshman year to catch up on credits quickly, get promoted to sophomore by the middle of their second year and still graduate on time.
Johnathan Johnson fell behind in his first year of high school.
"There were more people in the classroom and more distractions," he said. "The work got a little harder."
But, in its first year, the FAST program got Johnson and 21 other students like him back on track.
"It feels good. It feels really good," he said.
Feeling good is a huge boon to academic success, said teacher and FAST tutor Cynthia Patterson.
"Having them back on track gives them a sense of accomplishment," she said. "Once you succeed once, it's almost like a chain reaction after that."
Patterson is the faculty advisor for the program and she also helps students during lunch and after school. Sometimes the help goes beyond academics, and Patterson counsels students about behavior, attendance and time management.
"Encouragement goes a long way – for them to have someone that definitely believes in them and is a support group," she said.
In addition to tutoring, the program offers summer and night school classes to ensure students have enough time to make up credit hours.
"Having that time to receive academic support and make-up time is crucial to the success of this program," Kennedy said.
Smithfield-Selma High School also has a freshman academy to help students make the transition into high school. Between the two programs, Kennedy said, 95 percent of ninth graders are on track to graduate.