Learning Lab at Phelps Gives Students a Leg up on Homework Assignments 

February 8, 2011


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There are few words that can make students groan more loudly than this one can: homework. After waking up early for a day of classes, it’s sometimes easy to forget to complete a homework assignment at the end of the day.

At Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) High School, one of the biggest concerns staff has for students is that they do not complete their homework assignments on time, a concern that holds true for the special education population.

“We needed something in place for them so they could get a jumpstart on homework,” said Arden Matthew, special education coordinator at Phelps. And so the Learning Lab was born.

Created by Principal Michael Johnson, the Learning Lab is a 90-minute period that gives students an opportunity to start the night’s homework and to get extra help on class lessons from some of the school’s special education teachers.

The Learning Lab is a requirement for ninth grade students, but there are tenth and eleventh grade students who also participate in the lab.

At the end of the year, students receive a grade for their participation in the class.

Of the incoming special education ninth grade students who attend the Learning Lab, Mr. Matthew said three of them were ranked among the top 25 students for grade-point averages in the first term.

Each day, students report to the Learning Lab at 3:45 p.m., after the last bell rings. Special education teachers staff the lab, bouncing from student to student as they answer questions about classroom lessons and make sure all homework assignments are accounted for in the students’ planners.

As a result, school staff are taking proactive steps in helping students get organized and get ahead on their homework before leaving school for the day.

“In previous years, we would have just seen a student and said, ‘Hey, you didn’t turn in a homework assignment, so we need you to stay after school today, and we need to work at it,’” said Mr. Matthew.

The Learning Lab also makes sure students are independent and taking responsibility for their assignments.

After making sure that students copied down all their assignments, the students then must prioritize their homework by whether it is in a core subject area like math or English and if it’s an area where they tend to struggle.

At the end of the 90 minutes, Mr. Matthew and the teachers check in with the students, making sure they made some progress on the night’s assignments.

“Our goal is for them to at least complete two homework assignments during that period or to be consistently working toward one,” said Mr. Matthew.

The afterschool Learning Lab doesn’t mean that students cannot participate in other extracurricular activities, such as Phelps’ robotics club. Mr. Matthew said if parents consent, then their child can split their time between the Learning Lab and the other afterschool activity.

“Of course, we want the students to participate in other activities,” said Mr. Matthew. “For a portion of the Learning Lab period they may participate in an afterschool club, but their primary focus is the Learning Lab. We really try to emphasize that part of the success is reporting everyday.”

As a result of the success of the Learning Lab, the program will continue next school year and continue to be mandatory for ninth grade students.

“This program is too essential,” said Mr. Matthew. “We don’t just let students go home and hope they will go into their book bags every night.”

 

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