High School Power Hour

High school students get added tutoring, club time
By: Todd Martin
A large high school campus is a busy place, maybe too busy.
To get more efficient with available time, Killeen ISD’s high schools are developing a multi-faceted Power Hour within the daily lunch periods. Students use two 30-minute sessions for tutoring or an activity and to eat lunch.
Harker Heights High School
The library at Harker Heights High School on a recent Tuesday might be as good a view as any to understand the Power Hour.
Scattered throughout the library, which was noticeably quiet, students worked and played at a variety of activities. A couple of students worked on making jewelry. Another one worked on a puzzle.
A few students worked at computers. In three different large groups, the main activity was reading or completing schoolwork or some combination.
“It’s a place for everyone,” said Librarian Melissa Supak. “It’s a safe place. We want students to make new discoveries.”
At Harker Heights, students participate in “Knight Time” every Monday, using AVID strategies to plan out their studying needs and goals for the week.
The other four days a week, they spend the half-hour receiving academic help or participating in a growing variety of activities sprouting up across the campus.
Visible from the large library windows every Tuesday and Thursday is a pretty serious game of ultimate frisbee, which music teacher Peter Emerson supervises and most of the time, participates in.
Coaches, directors and sponsors of other UIL activities are using Power Hour to make grade checks and help students make improvement plans when necessary.
History teacher and freshman football coach Cody Spence expects all his athletes to check in with him and check their grades before moving on to eat lunch, take part in activities or get needed tutoring. Some also watch game film.
A lot of the athletes stay in his classroom to eat lunch and some of his former students are also finding the class a welcome location for eating and studying.
“It keeps kids on the campus and gives them a place to socialize respectfully,” Spence said.
Science teachers Suzanne Thompson and Wesley Shultz anticipate students in need of tutoring. They expressed appreciation for the new scheduled time during the day that doesn’t interfere with afterschool activity.
Shultz has always known that board games aid math and science skills, so he makes games available, which students play regularly during Power Hour.
Thompson has found that students not in her classes have found their way to her classroom for math and science help, which she is happy to provide.
Curriculum Director Elizabeth Cunningham appreciates the creativity of faculty and expects that more activities will pop up as students provide suggestions. “We’re seeing a lot of growth,” she said. “It’s spread through word of mouth.”
More and more she’s hearing students make plans to take care of schoolwork during Power Hour.
A campus intervention team formed with teachers providing tutoring for credit recovery, end-of-course test preparation and graduation planning.
Power Hour is also building community. Emerson said ultimate frisbee has been a tradition for his jazz class for years. “It makes for great bonding and for recruiting for jazz,” he said.
“I think it’s important to reward kids who are taking care of business.”
Killeen High School
Killeen High School Principal Kara Trevino is excited to see more students getting more connected to the school’s clubs and organizations and to teachers, coaches and other staff.
Power Hour, she said, has given students a chance to join groups and to take advantage of tutoring and not have to juggle with transportation, work and other activities.
Large pages posted in gathering places throughout the school list the daily options for clubs and tutoring.
The once-a-week advisory period, she said, is a chance for school leaders to emphasize Killeen High School Family Values and Kangaroo Characteristics and to help students plan their Power Hour schedule.
“I absolutely love it,” said KHS algebra teacher Jason Mallory. “I have students come to tutoring who would never make it otherwise. It gives students lots of flexibility.”
He has a group of “regulars” who come for extra help and others who come as needed. Some have chosen to use the entire hour to take a missed exam, which means they don’t miss instruction during class. Many need 10 minutes of focused instruction to grasp a concept.
Students, he said, are figuring out that the added scheduled time allows them to be proactive, getting the academic help they need to avoid falling behind.