Rothwell, 14, is earning A's in four of his six classes at Horse
Heaven Hills Middle School in Kennewick. Trouble is, he's struggling
in the other two. By his own admission, he's failing history and health
and may have to take summer school to keep from repeating eighth grade.
But Rothwell, like hundreds of other students struggling with their
studies in middle school, has a chance to bring his grades up and walk
into high school on the merits of his own academic record.
Instead of taking a regular elective, Rothwell is taking "Personal Social
Responsibility" from Liz White. The class--PSR for short--is a key element
...The PSR class teaches students to be responsible for their actions.
White sets aside some days for students to work on their homework and teaches
kids how to overcome the obstacles in their lives on other days.
In April, a national education magazine will honor Kennewick's accountability
program with its top honor: the Magna Award. The
district won a Magna Award last year for its third grade reading goal.
That was one of 22 awards given out last year.
This year, Kennewick is the recipient of The American School Board Journal's
grand prize, and school officials are thrilled by the recognition. The
citation applauds Kennewick "for its effort to make sure middle school
students are fully prepared for the challenges of high school."
"We think that's a great honor to be selected for our second Magna in
a row," said Superintendent Paul Rosier.
Two years ago, the Kennewick School Board scrapped the "social promotions"
policy, which nearly guaranteed that students would advance to the next
level, regardless of their grades. In its place, the board adopted a policy
that requires students to do the work before they can be promoted to high
school. At the same time, it created a slate of programs to help students
...The PSR class began as a summer school class, but has worked so well
it's offered during the regular year. According to Rosier, 874 students
have been affected by the accountability
program since it started. Of those, 624 shaped up during the school
year and advanced to high school on their own.
...Rosier said the accountability program was designed so kids would
have a clear set of expectations through school and so they would be prepared
for the reality of high school. Kids who skated through middle school were
more likely to become high school dropouts, he said.
The middle school program has been such a success, Kennewick is now
enforcing similar do-the-work requirements on elementary students.