A Timely Revolution at Joel P. Jensen Middle School
By Tori Jorgensen
West Jordan - Joel P. Jensen Middle School experienced a nearly 93 percent decrease in total tardies over the past four years, after the administration implemented programs intended to motivate students to follow school rules.
After his arrival at the school in the 2012-2013 school year, Bryan Leggat, principal, began instituting random tardy sweeps at JPJMS. A tardy sweep is when teachers lock the doors of their classrooms after the bells ring for class to start; late students are unable to enter their classrooms and must meet with administration for disciplinary action.
Leggat said these tardy sweeps were only marginally successful until Assistant Principal Aaron Hunter, who joined the administrative team at JPJMS a year after Leggat, came up with the idea to have tardy sweeps every day during every class period.
“We are probably one of the most diverse schools in our district, where many of our students come from poor demographic areas. A lot of them come from single parent households, and a lot of them don’t have structure and consistency at home. Our mantra at our school is that the more consistent we can be with these kids at school, the better off they are going to be,” Hunter said.
After the new tardy sweep implementation, more students got to class on time. In the 2011-2012 school year, 46,057 tardies were recorded, with 25,512 in 2012-2013, 9,549 in 2012-2014 and only 3,225 tardies in the 2014-2015 school year: a difference of 42,832 tardies per year in just four years. This means the average tardies per student went from 61.4 per year to 3.9. Leggat said he believes the timeliness of the students has been affecting their overall academic success as well.
In the 2014-2015 school year, JPJMS SAGE scores increased in almost all areas, including a 46 percent gain in biology and a 21 percent gain in math. There was also a 12 percent increase in the amount of students that passed all their classes in 2014-2015, compared to the 2013-2014 school year. This is what Leggat deems as the beginning of a schoolwide revolution.
“In the past, Joel P. Jensen has had a poor reputation, but we hope everyone understands that it is a new school,” Leggat said. “There is a new feeling. There is a new culture. It is a culture of success and growth and mastery.”
In addition to the tardy sweep program, the administration at JPJMS has also implemented four additional programs to promote learning, including:
The Response To Intervention (RTI) program allows teachers to invite struggling students to review content in their class during school hours. While these students receive one-on-one attention, students with proficient scores go to an activity as a reward for their hard work.
The Zeros Aren’t Permitted (ZAP) program gives students the opportunity to do select missing homework assignments during lunch hour in order to receive credit. A tracking board allows administration and teachers to see the picture and academic details of failing students at a glance and allows easy access to assign the student with mentors for improvement.
Leggat said that perhaps the most important of the programs they started is the ninth grade Credit Recovery program.
“For years at middle schools our teachers fail our kids, and we just kinda move on and say, ‘Okay, those kids will deal with their failed credits once they get into the high school building,’” he said. “We felt that we really needed to take responsibility as a school for those failed credits, especially for the core classes.”
Over 40 freshmen participated in the credit recovery program last year at JPJMS, which will allow them to enter West Jordan High School on a passing academic standing with the other sophomores.
“I’m not a betting man, but I would put money on the fact that the graduation rate in a few years to come will be much higher at WJHS because the middle schools did something about those kids,” Leggat said.