The list below offers examples of the types of changes Challenge Success schools have implemented as part of our program. These are not intended to be prescriptive. We encourage each school to examine its unique needs and circumstances and then create a site-specific plan for change.
Students’ Schedule & Use of Time
- Revise school schedules (including late start days, modified block, full block, or trimester schedules).
- Revise homework policies to ensure purpose and volume of homework is appropriate.
- Schedule quarterly “no homework” nights.
- Create test and project calendars to reduce overlapping major assignments.
- Provide tutorials or free periods to give students more time to interact with faculty and more time for academic support.
- Create guidelines for extracurricular activities.
- Move finals and/or cumulative projects to before winter break.
- Modify final exam schedule to create longer breaks between exams and earlier dismissal after exams.
- Schedule “dead week” each quarter where no testing is allowed.
- Eliminate summer and vacation assignments.
- Implement a “student-for-a-day” program where teachers follow a student’s schedule for an entire school day to get a sense of the cumulative effect of the daily schedule.
Project and Problem-Based Learning
- Diversify your teaching strategies to include rigorous project/problem-based learning as part of each unit.
- Modify curriculum and school assignments to make them more relevant to students’ lives.
- Develop “plagiarism-proof” assignments that allow for more student choice and personalization.
- Add a service learning component to an existing unit to increase student engagement and understanding of the topic.
- Assign a final project in lieu of a final exam.
Alternative and Authentic Assessments
- Use multiple forms of assessments in each unit that are aligned with the learning goals.
- Consider eliminating mid-terms and/or final exams.
- Allow students to self-assess and engage in peer review and revision when possible.
- Revise late work and “zero” policies.
- Allow students to do test corrections to show they understand their mistakes.
- Modify the grading system, such as using narrative assessments, creating unweighted GPA’s, or eliminating student rankings.
- Refrain from grading the first assignment(s) each semester; write comments, mark incorrect answers, and allow for revisions, so that students focus on the learning instead of just the grade.
Climate of Care
- Implement an advisory system to focus on social and emotional learning and to help students find faculty advocates.
- Support a broader definition of success by revising award assemblies and valedictorian choices, and by not publishing college acceptance lists.
- Encourage more positive student/faculty relationships so faculty members are more approachable and accessible.
- Develop time management, stress reduction, and relaxation techniques.
- Conduct exit surveys with graduates to glean information about aspects of school that worked well and ways to improve.
- Create Honor Codes, “Declaration of Integrity,” and revised cheating policies. Consider student-led judicial councils to handle academic integrity infractions.
Educate Parents, Students, and Faculty
- Develop parent education programs and host student assemblies to highlight the latest research on student well-being and address the pressures students face.
- Host “dialogue nights” in which students share their day-to-day demands with parents and/or faculty.
- Have students write anonymous letters to their parents explaining how adults can best support them academically and emotionally. Read these aloud at PTA meetings or parent nights.
- Sponsor professional development workshops for faculty on student stress and coping strategies.
- Hold education nights for parents of students in Advanced Placement and Honors courses to share information about the expectations and homework load.
- Create planning tools for students as they determine their academic and extracurricular schedule for the coming year. Focus on the amount of out-of-school time each class and activity will take, and be sure to make time for adequate sleep.
- Educate students on finding the right “fit” college or post-secondary path. De-bunk the myth that there is only one path to success.