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January 26, 1998


Operation Achievement: keeping kids on track

  by Deborah Stone
   Suspensions for Northshore junior and senior high school students who have behavioral infractions can run anywhere from five to twenty days on the average. In the past, these students would be sent home for the prescribed suspension, often left unsupervised with little to occupy their time. The possibility of their getting into additional trouble was a definite concern, but what was most troubling was the serious lag in academic achievement that occurred. Suspended students would return to their classes and experience frustration and failure because they'd fallen far behind in their workload. This often led to further disruptive behavior and the ultimate decision to drop out of school.
   Operation Achievement is a new in-school suspension program in the Northshore School District that hopes to curtail these problems and keep students on track with their school work. Eric Barnum, Director of Student Services and Activities for Northshore says, "This program grew out of seeing a need to intervene and give support to suspended students so they don't get further behind. We want them to return to their classes after their suspension, fully caught up and on pace with the rest of the students." Operation Achievement will operate out of a fully contained classroom in Inglemoor High School. Hours of operation will be 8:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m., and during that time, students will do their assigned school work, receive tutoring and counseling if needed and listen to guest speakers talk about a variety of subjects such as the criminal justice system, anger management, drug and alcohol abuse and careers.
   The program is being funded by a one year $57,000 grant, one of seven given to school districts from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Northshore is the only district on the Eastside to be awarded such a grant. "If Operation Achievement is successful, then we'll propose that it be made a part of our regular budget," states Barnum. The program can accommodate up to twelve students at one time and will be supervised by Alvin Horn, an instructional assistant and coach in the district. Horn has worked for over twenty years with youth programs and has experience helping kids with both learning and behavioral problems.
   Horn explains the structure of the in-school suspension program: "All the looseness of the mainstream setting will be gone. Strict rules will need to be adhered to, and students will be monitored closely. They will constantly be working, and there will be no talking or writing to other students allowed in the class. The kids will need to bring their lunches with them and remain in their assigned seats all the time. Specific clothing guidelines will need to be followed and no radios, CD players, electronic games or sleeping will be allowed."
   Principals from the area's junior and senior high schools will refer students to Operation Achievement. Those who are known to normally do their school work but have been suspended for five to twenty days for misbehaving, are the most appropriate candidates for the program. The students and their parents must agree to the stringent terms of the contract in order to be accepted to the program. Once their suspension is completed, the students return to their home schools.
   Horn sees Operation Achievement as an opportunity for these kids to succeed and remain within the system. He says, "Everyone wants to see these kids pass their classes and eventually graduate. This is an effort to provide the services that are needed to help make this happen. It's a win-win situation where everyone benefits."