Determination - a quality all people have, but when and how they use it can vary. Determination is a key ingredient to meeting goals, to navigating obstacles, and to maintaining focus. In March, our theme is determination - which fits March perfectly. March is often a time of year in schools where focus and grit is often most challenged. We know students that can successfully make it through March keeping their goals alive can leverage Spring Break to be best prepared for the sprint to May!
One of our main goals as a school is academic success. As indicated in our school improvement plan, we have made major strides over the past eight years to increase student achievement by way of multiple measurements (GPA, Graduation Rate, Advanced Placement testing, etc.). One of our newest initiatives is implementing “on-time” interventions for students who are “temporarily” failing. Students have responded well, by and large, realizing this intervention is there to help and not punish, and using the resources in the building to get back on track. I am very proud of our students and staff for taking on this challenge - which will have a significant impact on student achievement.
March, especially for Juniors, is time to prepare for the SAT/PSAT. In our second year as a state assessment, we are learning more each day about this exam and realize the need to help prepare our students for success. The SAT is rapidly becoming the college entrance exam in Illinois, particularly at Moraine Valley Community College, for placement, and those universities are communicating their “cut” scores for entry. At Andrew, our English, math, social studies, and science departments are leveraging Khan Academy to help connect their curriculum to the SAT. Khan Academy is a powerful tool for students - allowing for individualized development within the core academic curriculum, while being exposed to SAT style questions and skills. Our goal is not to replace curriculum with test prep, but bridge the connection between the two. Research shows 20 hours of preparation using a tool like Khan can have a significant impact on test scores. Therefore, staff within these departments have elected to implement those 20 hours (5 in each subject) either within the classroom or as homework to help students. Additionally, we will open Khan Labs and lunchtime elective sessions for students to work in their Khan accounts.
March moves fast and we have many events to celebrate. Our famous Variety Show is making its debut in March and we are looking forward to it. Given the diversity within the group (athletes, band/choir students, theater students, and others), March is a great month to focus on this show outside of many other events, such as IHSA Winter tournaments, ILMEA State Competition, and Theaterfest, which often overwhelmed our students in January. I, as many, are looking forward to it.
Additional events include the Golden Bolts Distinguished Service Awards where we recognize students, staff, community members, and support staff who go above and beyond to make VJA great. Our senior leaders run the program and take immense pride in this opportunity to reward those that provide leadership and a sense of community.
Enjoy your March, and have a wonderful Spring Break!