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Students at Marion High School have an innovative new tool to put them on the “path” to success while in high school.

It’s called the Professional Academic Training Hour, or “PATH” for short. Each day, MHS students attend PATH for one period of the school day to have dedicated time to focus on math and literacy skills, test prep, school culture, and life skills.

“The idea behind PATH started in response to some gaps we noticed in our students’ scores on standardized tests,” said Emily Hall, Marion High School assistant principal. “Of course, some factors related to test scores are beyond our control. But we do have control over other things. This specialized school period was created to address that.”

Hall also noted that Covid learning loss has created additional gaps in learning and achievement, which the school is working to close with PATH.

The school uses a program called Edmentum to help identify the specific learning gaps for each student, particularly in regard to literacy and math. Every student is assessed, and the program uses advanced diagnostics to both identify the gaps and create an individually tailored plan for each student. Those remediation plans are then implemented during the PATH period.

Each differentiated plan targets a specific set of skills, utilizing a lesson, practice, and a quiz. As students master a set of skills, they earn “trophies.” To date, sophomores have earned a combined 1,375 trophies, and juniors have earned 938.

But the school is also using PATH to help students grow in other ways. Students spend time learning how to write and structure professional emails and are given time to update and manage correspondence. Students are shown how to manage their daily schedules with modern task-management tools. Class time is dedicated to ACT prep. Students learn how to access the district’s Home Access Center, which allows student and their families to track their grades online.

“We are big believers in students tracking their own data,” said Hall. “This gives us a chance to teach them exactly how to do this. We think this is a skill that will be useful throughout life.”

The PATH period is also a tool for students to become actively involved in school culture. Students are given regular updates on upcoming events, and tasks like homecoming voting is done during this time.

There is no grade given in PATH, but in addition to the "trophies," the school is working to provide additional incentives for students who complete their PATH assignments. This month, students who meet expectations in PATH will be entered into a raffle for a chance to attend the State Volleyball Tournament, which MHS is hosting later this month. Active participation in the class can also earn students exemptions from semester finals.

“With this being the first year for this program, we are still finding things to modify and adjust,” said Hall. “But overall, it’s been well-received. We think this is going to be a great tool for us to help each of our students grow and thrive.”