Board Considers SHHS Student Performance, Stress, and Personalized Learning

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford

Strath Haven High School was the focus topic of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board meeting on Monday night, with principal Dr. MaryJo Yannacone covering topics ranging from the current enrollment numbers at the high school to alleviating student stress.

The high school welcomed 20 new students to the district in 9th grade, six new 10th graders (two of whom are reentering the district), eight new 11th graders (four reentering), and four new 12th graders (two returning). Grade size in the high school fluctuates from 257 in the 10th grade to 335 in the 9th.

Dr. Yannacone highlighted the outstanding performance of the high school students on the Keystone exams, as well as the strong performance of this year’s senior class on the PSAT exams they took as juniors. She stated that 11.11% of the seniors achieving “commended performance,” was the highest percentange in her 15-year tenure.

In addition, 85.3% of students taking Advanced Placement exams received a passing grade (a 3, 4, or 5). This statistic is particularly impressive given that all students taking AP classes at the high school are now required to take the exam.

It is, however, telling that alongside these impressive statistics, Dr. Yannacone is leading the 12th grade faculty team in researching the stress levels of seniors. The team’s ultimate quest is to understand what faculty and administrators can do to support the mental health of students navigating this time in their lives. The team is going to be reading, What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan.

The book discusses the suicide of Madison Holleran, who was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and a track star when she took her own life in 2014. Holleran was a New Jersey resident who attended Northern Highlands High School. Fagan’s book explores the pressures surrounding teenagers today including the constant feed of tweaked social media images.

Senior Exploration Personalizes Learning

In addition to seeking ways to support student wellness, the high school continues to look for ways to personalize learning for all students. Senior Exploration is a popular strategy for achieving this goal. The variety of paths chosen for Senior Exploration seems to be increasing, as does participation for the 2017-2018 school year.

Seniors may choose dual enrollment at area schools such as Delaware County Community College and Swarthmore College or they may choose from an abundance of online courses. Advanced chemistry, advanced German, and college algebra are some of the subjects seniors have chosen to pursue.

Students receive a discounted rate for tuition from Delaware County and receive college credits for the courses. Swarthmore College’s course offerings are free, but students receive no credit. While most students pursuing these opportunities drive, there is public transportation available, and Dr. Yannacone stressed that transportation issues should not limit a student’s choices.

For students choosing independent study, the interests range from pastry art and screenplay writing to a storm water management study aimed at eliminating the muck in the pond on the high school grounds.

Students are also pursuing internships in field careers by working with an athletic trainer, spending time in an elementary school classroom, and volunteering with the Swarthmore Fire Department.

Seniors may also participate in paid employment. Students have worked at local venues such as Wawa, CVS, 320 Market, and Sproul Lanes. Ten hours a week of work during the 15-week semester are required. Businesses and individuals interested in supporting the program commit to providing 150 hours of employment, which does not have to take place during school hours.

A Moving Musical Weekend

Vice President Marylin Huff, who attended both events this past weekend honoring Jack Hontz, praised the organizers and participants for their excellent work. She also noted the overwhelming and moving participation in Friday night’s halftime show of alumni of the district who returned to the field to honor their late band leader.

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