Innovative Thinking Provides Kraemer Middle School Students More Opportunities and Time

“During our conversations about how to better help students and meet the diverse needs of all students, we found that families are busy and students are busy,” said Keith Carmona, principal of Kraemer Middle School which is one of 34 schools in the award-winning Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. “Finding time for extra help, make-up work, or enrichment activities was something that we needed and we found a way to make it happen during the school day.”

By consolidating class periods and reducing passing periods by two minutes, the school was able to add one additional 30-minute class every Tuesday through Friday for either intensive intervention in a specific subject, or if the students are succeeding they can choose an enrichment class of their choice.

Called Kraemer P.R.I.D.E., which stands for “Personal Responsibility for Individual Development and Education,” the program puts students in charge of the extra time. If they are succeeding in class, they can choose from a multitude of enrichment classes such as “Strategy Games,” “Special Projects,” “Labs,” “Writing Conferences, “ “Advanced Yoga” or even “Study Hall,” a popular choice because as several students stated, “It gives us extra time to do homework with teachers there to help us.”

Each day is themed according to a specific subject. For example, Tuesday is Language Arts day. On this day, students who are doing well in that subject choose the enrichment activity. Students that need assistance in the specific subject of the day, get a stamp on their daily planners by their teachers. The stamp indicates that their P.R.I.D.E. time is dedicated to an intervention class that will help them do better in that specific subject.

School administration observed that students are constantly looking at the bulletin boards that list the upcoming enrichment activities and working harder so that they can attend those activities. Students are well informed of the options since the first two weeks of school were dedicated to not only explain the P.R.I.D.E. program but to emphasize the Kraemer goal, which is to help students succeed academically.

The school also involved parents. At the start of the year, they held several parent classes geared at helping them help their children. One of those classes was “Learning Aeries,” an online information tool used by the district where parents of secondary students can log on to stay on top of their children’s grades and assignments. In other classes, parents learned about Common Core Standards in math and tutorials that they can use at home when needed.

Is the program succeeding? “We have already seen students with much more motivation to seek out the additional help they need in classes,” said Principal Keith Carmona. “We expect to see student grades go up, but already we are thrilled to have students taking real ownership of their academics.”

Academic achievement is the first focus area of the district’s five-year strategic plan called the PYLUSD Advantage.

“We’re now in our second year of our strategic plan and we’ve challenged schools, which are already high achieving, to hold high expectations and challenge students to do their personal best,” said Superintendent Domene. “Kraemer’s P.R.I.D.E. program is one innovative example of schools demonstrating excellence in meeting that challenge.”

Not only is academic achievement the district’s first focus area, it’s also the foundation of the district’s vision and mission statements. The vision, which is the driving force for all of the district’s actions, states that the district is “committed to a dynamic learning community that prepares each and every student for success now and in the future.” In addition, the district’s mission states that the district will “hold high expectations for all students through rigorous and relevant educational experiences that challenge them to become responsible, ethical and engaged citizens.”

The vision and mission statements as well as the focus areas of the strategic plan were developed in collaboration with parents, community members, business leaders, city and civic leaders, district and school staff, and the Board of Education. To view the plan in its entirety, visit the district’s “PYLUSD Advantage” website page at http://www.pylusd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=221765&type=d&pREC_ID=486152


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