Success with "Success": Keeping Freshmen in High School

"I loved going to that class every day. It wasn't one of those classes I was bored with," says Jennifer Smoak about the classes taught to Lee freshmen.

Keyboarding and responsibility.  Hard work and life.

The Freshman Success program is proving it's worth. Three years ago, a state grant allowed principal Fred Hayes to revamp how freshmen learn, because too many weren't becoming sophomores.

"You enroll at the school about 700 9th graders, and next year you have about 900 because there are two hundred who never got to leave," says Principal Fred Hayes.

A Success Academy is a group of four teachers in the four core subjects. The teachers discuss the students performance with each other and parents. And students are involved.

"We were all nervous," says freshman Tara Richmond. "What we were going to do, and would it be hard to fit in and it just helped us because we got to know who we are and what I want to do with my life."

Also, kids in Success take a class about success. Peggy Marcom teaches.

"We emphasize teaching attitude, goal setting, responsibility, self image and character."

"It taught us about real life situations, and how to manage time and money." says Alaina Miller, who was in the program last semester.

Starting early is everything.

"When students drop out, they drop out in the ninth grade because they never got out."

Now fewer freshmen are failing a class in their first six weeks, down from 47 percent last school year... to just 19 percent now.

The state has extended the program's grant money. Everyone at Lee hopes that continues.

Hayes: "It's the best money the state's ever spent on education."