• Oakland Aviation Hight School
  • Oakland Aviation Hight School

Approach to students who enter below grade level

The plan for students who enter below grade level begins with evaluating data on our students and identifying their educational needs.  From this point, we establish goals and integrate them into each student’s Personal Learning Plan.  As a school, we attempt to accelerate learning for students in non-invasive ways.  Among these are a longer school day, extensive scaffolding of basic math and language skills in two math and English classes each day, literacy and numeracy emphasis across the curriculum, teaching through highly engaging activities (designing exhibits for Western Aerospace Museum, building aircraft, etc.), and ensuring every student’s specific needs are understood and monitored by a group of adults. 


For students who need more aggressive support, there are four layers of intervention. The first layer involves tutoring by teachers during flex periods, or before and after the scheduled school day.  The second layer involves the recruiting the student’s Advisor and appropriate an classroom teacher in overseeing a program such as “Read 180” or “High Point”.  The third layer requires students to attend classes on selected Saturdays.  The fourth layer involves the student, family and staff in finding and utilizing a personal tutor.


Evaluating Data and Identifying Educational Needs

Purpose of Formative Assessments

All students entering OAHS will be given a series of formative assessments.  Students who are below, above or at grade level will be identified, and the results of these assessments will be used by the student’s Advisor to establish an appropriate Personalized Learning Plan with the student and his/her family.  These formative assessments will allow the OAHS staff to evaluate the needs of students individually and as a cohort. 



Students will be assessed upon entering OAHS to measure their current skills in comparison to California State Standards.  Multiple-choice questions are designed to test competency in specific content standards and will vary in difficulty from 6th grade to 10th grade.  Open-ended math questions are used to determine mathematical reasoning.  Students will write short essays in English (and when appropriate, home language).  These essays will include persuasive, personal narrative and response to literature rhetorical modes.


Application of Assessments

In addition to providing data for the Personal Learning Plans, formative assessments will guide the staff in making curricular choices around needed remediation.  For example, if a significant number of students enter behind in mathematics, the staff will be able to respond to the students’ need as a unit.  Mathematics will be consciously integrated into daily instruction across the curriculum.  Likewise, when a student enters with a unique learning challenge, the entire faculty will be more able to focus on the student’s particular area of need.


Using the Assessments

The formative assessments are quite flexible.  Each question is designed to identify the student’s level of proficiency in a specific content standard.  Questions vary in difficulty from 6th to 10th grade and are drawn from both released tests (CAHSEE, Stanford 9, ACT, SAT) as well as staff designed question banks.  They are easy to grade, and have been proven to be highly accurate in pinpointing specific skills.


Academic Intervention Process

Every four weeks teachers will issue Academic Warnings (AW) to students, parents and their Advisory teachers, if they are earning less than 75% in class.  AWs are intended as warnings, not reprimands.  They explain that the student is not currently meeting the course standards, the reason for the low grades, and suggestions for meeting course requirements.  A copy of the AW goes to the student’s Advisory teacher, the principal and a family member.  In extreme cases, students may be required to meet with their Advisor, the core teacher and a family member to develop an action plan and revise the PLP.


After the first interim assessment (first 6 weeks), all students who are performing below benchmark standards will be issued an Academic Contract (AC).  ACs require a meeting between the student, parents, teacher, Advisor and sometimes RSP Specialist to set student-specific learning objectives.  The terms of the AC are guided by the results formative and interim assessments, and informed by the specific needs and interests of the student.


If the student fails to meet the terms of the AC, she or he will be required to seek after school tutoring or outside community resources.  Every attempt will be made on the part of the school to find high quality, tutoring or support at low or on cost to the family.  If more than one student is having similar trouble the principal will research the challenge and co-ordinate appropriate professional development for either the content area team or the whole staff.


Non-Invasive In-Class Support

Extended School Day

The purpose of extending the school day is to give students access to more concentrated English and math instruction.  Students who are below grade level will take two math and English classes each day.  The extended day allows OAHS to provide students integrated support without pulling students out of their grade-level courses. 


Multiple Classes

The table below shows an example of how one student’s different classes support each other.  Notice how the English practicum class helps students develop the most basic skills needed to be literate in English, and demonstrate mastery of grade level standards.  In this class, students entering below grade level practice cognitive literacy strategies.  In Advisory, students listen to Martin Luther King’s speeches and study the elements of public rhetoric.  This supports the English teacher’s lesson, in that the teacher need not introduce the elements of public rhetoric.  Students in Advisory also have learned to format a written document, recognize a variety of genres and use evidence to support opinion.  This gives the student multiple contexts and opportunities to practice essential skills.  The core English teacher has more time to focus on content, because so much of the scaffolding is being done in collaboration with other teachers.


Example of how the three ELA classes work together

Courses taken by a student in one day

English 9

English Practicum


Course Objectives

Students reach California ELA Standards and beyond

Students develop necessary skills to reach grade level proficiency in ELA

Advisory Builds context, skill, establishes routines and school wide standards and common experiences

Week’s culminating project description

English 9


Author:  George Orwell

Texts: Animal Farm, Shooting an Elephant, Orwell for Beginners


Assignment: You are Orwell’s best friend.  You have been asked to present him with the Noble Prize for Literature.  Write a speech in which you express Orwell’s attitude toward authoritarianism, and why he is worthy of such a great honor.  Use relevant quotations from both of his writings and biography to support your argument


CA Standard:

Reading 2:4 Synthesize the content from several sources or works by a single author dealing with a single issue.  Paraphrase the ideas and connect them to other sources and related topics to demonstrate comprehension.

English Practicum


Students working on the development of Cognitive Literacy Strategies.



Some examples: Letter/sound knowledge; visual word knowledge, semantic word meaning and associations; prior knowledge; identifying word families; monitoring for meaning; determining importance; summarizing; predicting;



Reading/writing/listening with a variety of texts, recognize and distinguish among genres.


Context: Elements of public rhetoric (including listening to MLK and Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance speech)


Formatting a written document according to OAHS standards using MS Word





CA Standard:

Writing 1:4 Develop the main ideas within the body of the composition through supporting evidence.




Literacy and Numeracy Across Curriculum

Best Practices for School-Wide Literacy and Numeracy Development

At OAHS curriculum is mapped across the disciplines so that the entire educational experience supports the development of literacy and numeracy.  Students will read, write, speak, listen, estimate, calculate and speculate in every class they take.  In fact much of their education will be taking place in real world contexts in which students will need to use a variety of tools to solve problems.  Students will be taught how each discipline identifies evidence in different ways, and how important is to develop one’s thinking to proficiency in them all.  Because the curriculum is aggregated, students will have multiple opportunities and contexts in which to practice and apply skills.  Developing motivation to learn (and struggle to catch up) is about knowing the purpose and context of a particular skill.  For many students, what they learn in English and math classes is unrelated to them or other classes at school.  For many, the purpose of school is unclear.  An integrated curriculum gives students greater opportunities to practice core skills and to develop intrinsic motivation to learn.


OAHS emphasizes reading, writing, speaking and listening in every content area.  The approach to our literacy program is applied universally across the curriculum. Because mathematics is a language many of the same “best practices” used in language development are applied in math and science courses.  Likewise, mathematical and scientific thinking are central to the development of logic and argumentation in every discipline.  The following list of “best practices” has been researched extensively and is proven to engage and strengthen students who traditionally struggle in school:

  • Writing and Calculating for publication (research shows student motivation increases when they know their work will be shared with others)
  • Student choice in readings/solutions
  • Socratic seminars
  • Literature circles
  • Group writing and calculating
  • Peer editing
  • Journal writing
  • Sustained Silent Reading
  • Authentic challenges (designing museum exhibits, RAFT exercises, etc.)
  • Reading workshop
  • Writing and Math workshops
  • Graphic organizers
  • Exposure to a variety of texts at different levels
  • Texts in home languages provided
  • Daily grammar/math practice
  • Self-analysis and metacognition


Engaging Activities

For many students school has no connection to the “real world”.  OAHS combats this idea by engaging students is authentic learning experiences.  For example, in Advisory students will begin to learn about the scientific method by making paper airplanes.  By the end of the first year they will have built scale models of historical planes, created their own airplane designs, tested them in a wind tunnel and flown them in the parking lot.  In the process of deepening their understanding of flight they will learn to format a paper, write a bibliography, conduct historical research, design, conduct and print a scientific experiment and present the results before a group of 100 people.  Activities like this not only give students practical experience with the curriculum, it also helps to bridge the gap between students who are at grade level and those who are behind by providing hands on experiences and higher levels of motivation.


Every Student is Known Well


Students have the same Advisory teacher for four years.  This allows the Advisor to get to know the student and his/her family in a deep and meaningful way.  This is especially important for students who enter below grade level, as it reduces the chances that they may slip through the cracks.  Moreover, because the Advisor’s role is as an advocate for the student, it is likely that the student will get the kind of help her or she needs most.



Core subject teachers “loop” with students for two years.  This allows them to gain a deeper understanding of the content area needs of each student and to have enough time to do something about them.  It also ensures consistency in expectations from one year to the next.


Personal Learning Plan

Student Personal Learning Plans are created and monitored by the student, a family member, the Advisory teacher and one other adult of the student’s choice.  Together this team will assess student progress, and advocate for appropriate supports to increase performance.


Four Layers of Intervention

The following four layers of intervention may be applied to students in any order, or all together.  The idea is to provide the highest leverage option for each circumstance.  This list is not exhaustive, but it provides a reasonable framework starting point for our first year.  As we gain experience addressing our students’ needs we will continue to extend these and develop new interventions.


Teacher Tutors

Students who continue to struggle in one or more classes will be scheduled to meet with their classroom teacher regularly.  The purpose of these meetings will be to help the student understand the requirements of the class and the steps necessary to meet expectations.  The results of the teacher tutoring is documented and reviewed by the student’s advisor, the principal and family member.


Intervention Programs

Students who are unable to catch up with the aid of teacher tutoring, will be required to participate in an intervention program such as “Read 180” or “High Point”.  The specific program will be determined by the experience and training of the staff, or the availability of a strong and affordable outside expert.  The program instructor, Advisory teacher and principal carefully monitor student progress.  Students may use math or English Practicum time for these programs, but may be required to do extra work before of after school. 


Saturday Classes

Saturday classes emphasize a single math or English skill taught in a variety of modes.  Saturday classes will be optional for students in good standing and required for students who are struggling in math and English.


Personal Tutor

Students who continue to struggle may need the services of a personal tutor.  Finding the right tutor is difficult and will require combined efforts of OAHS, the student and the family.  OAHS will leverage its relationships with local colleges and universities to find a reasonably priced and well-trained tutor for students in serious need.