GRAD Partnership Rural School Spotlight: Thomaston, AL

Through their dedicated efforts, the School Resource Team at AL Johnson exemplifies effective student support, creating positive impacts on students and the school community, in rural Alabama.

March 7, 2024 |
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The Rural Schools Collaborative Team, in collaboration with GRAD Partnership Intermediaries from University of West Alabama and North State Together, recently met with the School Resource Team (SRT) at AL Johnson High School (pictured above). Led by Principal William Martin, the SRT employs a student-centered approach to identify and address students' needs, utilizing "street data" to promote equity and student success. Composed of teachers, counselors, and administrators, the SRT collects referrals and implements interventions tailored to individual students, such as establishing consistent routines and implementing morning share time to foster a safe and supportive environment. Through their dedicated efforts, the SRT at AL Johnson exemplifies effective student support, creating positive impacts on students and the school community.

Recently, the Rural Schools Collaborative Team, along with GRAD Partnership Intermediaries from the University of West Alabama (UWA), and North State Together (NST) had the opportunity to meet the School Resource Team (SRT) at Amelia Love Johnson High School (AL Johnson) in Thomaston, AL to learn more about their work promoting student success.

AL Johnson is a small school, serving approximately 160 students in grades PK-12. The school is led by Principal, Mr. William Martin, who attended AL Johnson himself, and is passionate about supporting the school that gave him the tools he needed to be successful. He now works tirelessly to ensure that current students are supported academically, socially, and emotionally so that they too can pursue their dreams. By joining the GRAD Partnership, the school has been able to share their story, learn from others, and provide valuable resources to support the important work of the SRT.

Mr. Martin showing off his original school photo - he is an AL Johnson Alum, now proudly serving as the school principal.

Mr. Martin, with support of the METIS Institute and partners at UWA, created the SRT in 2020, as an effective way to provide services to certain students as Behavioral Outliers and/or Children in Pain. The team utilizes “street data” to identify students who might be struggling. Street data, as defined by Safir (2019) “takes us down to the ground to listen to the voices and experiences of our students, staff, and families”. It allows teachers and other school staff to make personal connections with students while listening to their stories and learning from their points of view. It has historically been shown to promote equity in education and can be a huge asset to a school’s student success team.

The SRT is comprised of teachers (Mrs. Beverly Wiley – 4th Grade and Mr. Edward Griffin – 7-12th Resource Teacher), the school counselor (Angela Ward), the district mental health coordinator (Kenyatta Evans), AL Johnsons’ instructional coach (Mrs. Katie Godbold), and school and district administrators (Mr. Martin and Mrs. Wendy Joiner). At times, community partners such as Dr. Rogers from UWA are invited to attend meetings to provide additional resources and support to the team.

The SRT works by collecting referrals from teachers who are asked to identify students who are in need of assistance in one or more key areas including, attendance, behavior, course performance, connectedness, and mental health to name a few. Each success team member meets with their assigned teachers to collect these incredibly important referrals, as well as information about any celebration moments, barriers to personal well-being, and ideas for academic enrichment and improvement. Once the data is collected, the team of caring adults meets monthly and utilizes student centered mindsets to devise effective interventions.

"You Belong Here" banner in the school hallways.

For example, at the meeting we attended, one of the SRT members brought up a student who was sleeping in class most mornings. After talking to the student, the teacher was able to pinpoint the cause (disruptions at home), and the team was able to work together to devise intervention strategies to help that student set up a consistent routine that would help ensure she gets the sleep she needs each night. By talking to the student, hearing her story, and understanding her situation, the team was able to leverage student-centered mindsets and actionable data to create an effective intervention.

Another exciting moment from the SRT meeting we attended was one of the celebrations. At the meeting, Mrs. Wiley shared some successes she has had by implementing morning share time in her fourth grade classroom. Each day, she opens up the floor for students to tell how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. She says that this has been a game-changer, as it “lets the students know that we care, and when they feel like this is a safe environment, they can tell us what is wrong and you know, not going their way.” Mrs. Wiley said that you would be amazed to hear all the things that her students have shared, and that in understanding their struggles, she is better able to support them.

The work of the AL Johnson School Resource Team is a shining example of a student success team in action. By leveraging actionable, real-time data and a caring team of adults, the SRT is able to create effective student-centered interventions that lead to meaningful change. Annah Rogers, GRAD Partnership Coordinator for the Black Belt Region notes, “the work the SRT at AL Johnson does is nothing short of amazing. It has been an honor to be a small part of this team, witnessing the positive impacts it has on individual students and the school as a whole.”

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