The Head and Heart of Clarke Middle School: Effective Practices for Serving At-Risk Youth



Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Academic Achievement & School Leadership


Head: Academic Achievement and Leadership-This presentation explains how Clarke Middle developed and uses its Advisement Program, Responsive-to-Intervention (RTI) Program, Check-In/Check Out (CICO) system, emphasis on Focus students, as well as our data analysis process to close the achievement gap between our highest performing students and lowest performing subgroups who are our African American students, students in special education, and those who live in poverty.

Heart: Social and Emotional Skills-This presentation will also explain how Clarke Middle uses its Advisement Program, weekly Student Services Meeting, Connected Schools Activities, Great Strides Ceremonies, and other Owls Pride (PBIS) initiatives to promote the social and emotional development of students who all students, but especially those who live in poverty.

Brief Program Description

At Clarke Middle School, an innovative attitude has created change for our at-risk youth. If you are a District representative, Administrator, teacher, or a support staff member who desires to learn effective but tangible ways to improve practices in your building, then this presentation is for you!!! We will use a “speed dating” format to teach you about 8 programs/initiatives that have positively impacted the culture of our school and the likelihood of success for our at-risk youth.


At Clarke Middle School, we have made lots of progress in creating a “connected school.” Although our test scores, survey data, and decrease in discipline referrals indicate that we are doing something right, it is in the conversations we are having with children that we realize we are “on to something.”

Our students indicate that they have bought into our mission and that we are co-collaborators in an effort to prepare them for high school and to instill in them a sense of personal efficacy and individual accountability. Although we have not arrived, we have some great strategies and initiatives to share that focus on all students but have particular resonance with students who are at-risk.

These “Heart” and “Head” efforts have helped us improve the academic performance of students in the lowest quartile. These efforts have also helped support a change in our teachers’ perspectives about “these students” establishing a supportive rapport with them and building on their very real and very rich strengths. From our Great Strides Ceremonies to our Connected School activities, we are turning our relationships with students on its “head”, celebrating and recognizing the growth of students who have never been celebrated or recognized, and shifting our relationship formula with them so it includes four square games instead of discipline referrals.

Our Advisement program seeks to make students the “head” of the class, to develop their commitment to academics, and to build a socially respectful and responsive school. Additionally, the model of our Advisement program is responsive and fluid AND rigidly consistent at the same time, so that as a school, we respond to the needs of our students using the same voice.

From our presentation, other schools can learn our techniques for rejuvenating our RTI process, making our Check In Check out procedures effective, and anchoring all efforts in a bi-monthly data analysis that takes place in our Leadership meetings. Yes-we are still on the journey, but we believe that we have lots to share that will open the “head and hearts” of our educators to new possibilities.


Although we have several samples of evidence that support the effectiveness of our initiatives, our most important and most reliable piece of data comes from our relationships and conversations with students. This piece of data provides information regarding the impact our different programs have on our students and their educational career. To better support this evidence sample, we have also collected data from our student surveys as part of the Georgia TKES program and our advisement program. Specifically, our data shows that 92% of students agree that their advisement teacher likes them, which affects their attitudes and motivation to participate in the advisement lessons. Our students collectively agree that their teachers care about their learning, treat them with respect, hold them responsible for their behaviors, and expect them to do their best; in which, all of these areas are reflected in the initiatives we have put into place to support our students and their academic success.

To reflect on more quantifiable data, our students have decreased the number of office referrals by 4% from last year to this year. More specifically, there was a 6% decrease for African American students and a 17% decrease for Students with Disabilities. Over our three year implementation of our initiatives, there has been a 43% decrease in the number of office referrals from 2013 to this school year in addition to a 42% decrease for African American students. Furthermore, our Disproportionality Risk Rate decreased from 5.32 in 2014 to 4.85 in 2015 for African American students and 5.22 to 3.22 for African American Students with Disabilities.

In relation to academic data, we have seen significant growths in relation to our achievement gap between our highest performing and lowest performing subgroups, which include: African American students, Students with Disabilities, and Economically Disadvantaged students.

Based on our 2014 CRCT results, we had gains in all content areas from the previous year; however, we saw significant gains in the content areas of Science and Social Studies. For Science, there was a 9% increase for African American students and a 13% increase for Economically Disadvantaged students. For Social Studies, there was a 15% increase for African American students, a 6% increase for Students with Disabilities, and a 13% increase for Economically Disadvantaged students.

Additionally, our 2014 Georgia College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) increased by 16.7 points with a score of 68.6 for 2013 and a 85.3 for 2014. Clarke Middle had the highest CCRPI score in the district. Additionally, we were the only school in our district to move our lowest quartile population out of 100% of the students not meeting standards on the Science and Social Studies CRCT. We saw an increase of 13.6% of these students meeting standards for Science and 24.5% increase in meeting standards for Social Studies compared to the two previous years.

All of the data provided above is reflective of the eight initiatives we have put into place to better support our students academically and behaviorally.

Our proposal is established from research-based strategies that have impacted the performance of all students, especially students living in poverty. Although each strategy has its own set of standards, we use it to work collaboratively with all initiatives to provide the best learning experience for our students.

Our Response-To-Intervention program is based on the implementation of the four-tier system designed by NCLB and IDEA 2004 to identify and address students’ academic and behavior needs. We have put into place a systematic approach for our RTI program to ensure we as educators are putting in to place the most appropriate and accurate interventions for students and collecting student data consistently and frequently. In addition to meeting as a Student Support Team weekly, we meet in grade level teams to discuss RTI students and interventions with us rotating between academic and behavior RTI every week. Case managers are assigned to each student and goals are created, reviewed, and changed weekly based on the data collected throughout the week for each child served in RTI. Since implementing our systematic RTI program, we have decreased the number of students identified for special education services as well as put into practice additional initiatives such as CICO.

Our Behavior and Academic Check In/Check Out (CICO) System, which is used to support RTI, Special Education, and PBIS, is used for all identified students, working to ensure that the scientifically research-based strategies are being implemented with fidelity. With a CICO system, we are working with students each and every day, setting academic and/or behavior goals for each content class. The idea is that these students and the “case managers” systematically are co-evaluating our students’ efforts in their academic classes. Using this systematic (researched-based) protocol, each student meets with his/her “case manager” every morning, just before the content classes begin. At that meeting, academic or behavior goals are set and connections are made to what worked well in the content classes the day before and what did not work well, so that students can adjust their approach. Using a prescribed discussion protocol, students and teachers set daily academic and/or behavior goals in the morning and then analyze and evaluate their progress toward that goal in the afternoon, setting the stage for the next day’s goals. Each student’s progress using the CICO system is discussed during the RTI meetings held each Friday to analyze the effectiveness of the intervention and the need for changes. Overall, the CICO system provides daily opportunities for educators in our building to build relationships with these students and to explicitly teach and monitor their progress in academic classes.

Our Advisement program has been created to address three areas: career goals, academic achievement, and social and personal development to promote positive behavior and academic growth. Our students meet weekly in advisement groups to connect to a topic that addresses one of the three areas using student led activities, teamwork tasks, and individual reflection pieces to focus on planning, discovery, and self-awareness. Our advisement program is fluid, creative, and interactive to best support the needs of our students. Lastly, our advisement program’s focus on student growth and awareness has increased its support and effectiveness for our school PBIS program. Based on student feedback provided through surveys, our student population agree that their favorite theme to discuss during advisement is Interpersonal Relationship topics, which include: bullying, respect, conflict resolution, community and traditions. More specifically, students on average choose either yes (or agree) or yes! (or strongly agree) for the effectiveness of specific topics discussed during advisement. Parents also had the opportunity to provide feedback via a survey regarding our school climate and this data proved that 91% or higher of parents agree that Clarke Middle’s advisement program supports their child’s safety, learning experience, and positive interactions with both teachers and students. Additionally, parents were asked more specific questions regarding the implementation for our advisement program and on average 98% of our parents agreed that they understand our program and how valuable it is for our students. Overall, our advisement program has been so successful that schools within our district have now adopted many if not all of our advisement lessons to implement within their own buildings.

Our Focus Student initiative was derived from the implementation of the Graduate First program. This initiative required us to analyze student data, choose a percentage of students from our special education population as suggested by the state, and put into place an intervention to track and support this group of students. To support our Check In/Check Out initiative, we provided another layer onto this system by having our Focus students meet with their case managers weekly to discuss academic growth (grades, formative and summative assessment scores), behavior strengths and weaknesses, and attendance. This level of support allowed for more communication and reliability among administrators, teachers, and students.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Tad MacMillan: Current Principal at Clarke Middle school. Tad has worked as a principal at both middle school and elementary school and has also served as an middle school instructional coach, social studies teacher, and language arts teacher.

Ashlee Perry: Counselor at Clarke Middle School. Ashlee has worked as an elementary teacher and as a middle school counselor. Ashlee has worked to reinvent the CMS RTI process and the Advisment proces and worked with the staff of creating culturally responsive classrooms. Ashlee is currently pursuing her Ph.D in counseling.

Kristin Spencer: Special Education Team Leader for Clarke Middle: Kristin has worked as both a collaborative and direct math teacher and special education team leader. Kristin has worked with the CMS staff to develop more effective collaborative relationships and leads the Graduate First work and the Focus School work.

Keyword Descriptors

Advisement, Middle School, RTI, PBIS, Check-in/Check-out, Connected Schools

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-9-2016 11:15 AM

End Date

3-9-2016 12:30 PM

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Mar 9th, 11:15 AM Mar 9th, 12:30 PM

The Head and Heart of Clarke Middle School: Effective Practices for Serving At-Risk Youth


At Clarke Middle School, an innovative attitude has created change for our at-risk youth. If you are a District representative, Administrator, teacher, or a support staff member who desires to learn effective but tangible ways to improve practices in your building, then this presentation is for you!!! We will use a “speed dating” format to teach you about 8 programs/initiatives that have positively impacted the culture of our school and the likelihood of success for our at-risk youth.