The Freshman Academy significantly decreased student suspensions, absences, failures and instances of dangerous behaviour in the class of 2015, according to Superintendent David Healy.
At the beginning of the 2011-12 year, the district instituted a new approach to orientation at , dubbed 'Freshman Academy.' The program in Aug. 2011 that allowed freshmen to get acclimated and ease first day nerves by meeting teachers, joining student-run organizations, practicing opening their lockers, and finding their classes.
That day, students were also split into three teams that they would remain in for the entire year: Alaskan Huskies, Siberian Huskies and Polar Huskies. Each team came with specific teachers for each subject, creating a small interdisciplinary community to help students and create an environment for success, explained Healy.
"Each team has a dedicated group of teachers that co-plan and have a dedicated counselor with the same consistent message and a dedicated administrator with the same consistent message," Healy said. "Students take ownership of their team; they take ownership of their school; they take ownership of their community. It instills in them a sense of pride and affiliation."
Over the last year, the three teams have participated in a variety of activities with their teams that take them beyond the classroom, including .
Numerical data reported by the high school shows there has been a decrease student suspensions, absences, failures and instances of dangerous behaviour when the class of 2015 is compared to statistics from the freshman year of the class of 2016.
The largest decrease came in the area of dangerous behavior, which includes incidents of fighting, lewd or obscene expressions, sexual harassment, bias, threats to student, threats to staff, harassment, assault, drug possession or use, or theft. The high school saw a 77% decrease in such incidents, dropping from 60 incidents during the class of 2014's freshman year to 14 during the class of 2015's freshman year.
Class of 2015 as Freshmen
Suspensions 46 20 Absences 3,192 2,354 Failures 751 484 Dangerous Behavior 60 14
Healy explained that a similar program was instituted with the class of 2014 during their sophomore year in hopes of fostering the same community oriented ideals and character building that Freshman Academy attempts to.
The class of 2014 saw a drop in all four areas from their freshman year to their sophomore year. Incidents of dangerous behavior dropped by 42 incidents and failures dropped by 260 incidents.
46 30 Absences 3,192 2,519 Failures 751 491 Dangerous Behavior
"We've worked on improving so many areas with so many outstanding results. When you talk about initiatives like Freshman Academy, and things like attendance, major infractions, and failures, that's unbelievable," Healy said.
He credits the teachers, staff and students of Matawan Regional High School for the impact the program has made in its first year.
"The success is based on the efforts of our teachers, administrators, counselors and our most important group, children," he said. "It gives students an identity, a sense of belonging, a sense of affiliation, a sense of pride, and even a sense of competitiveness between the teams."
On Thursday, Aug. 30, the class of 2016 will be welcomed to Matawan Regional High School and split into three different teams. Healy is confident that as the district refines the Freshmen Academy for the initiative's sophomore year, the newest group of Huskies will flourish.
"It's a family approach to interacting and managing kids. The message is consistent. It's a school within a school tailored to meets the individual needs of students," he said. "I think it's outstanding and I believe it's going to set the tone for the following years."