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District Provides New Targeted Support to At-Risk Students

Montclair Public Schools has capitalized on the opportunity to enrich the Educational Support & Personal Motivation program ("ESPM Zone”) at Montclair High School.

The ESPM Zone program was the initiative of, and is run by, Kevin Richberg, an assistant football coach and teacher of advertising, marketing, and finance at MHS. It is a year-long academic support and mentoring program.

The program, which began in September 2009, at the start of the school year, is an eighth-period class consisting of 25 MHS football players who have been identified as academically at-risk scholar/athletes. They are provided tutoring, counseling, homework assistance, and mentoring for a full period prior to practice, Monday through Friday. The class continues beyond football season, through the end of the school year.

In compliance with funding constraints contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), we have been able to procure the services of the renowned education motivational speaker, D. West and his team of former professional athletes to supplement the ESPM Zone program. This six (6) month intensive character education and leadership component is intended to instill the motivation and confidence that so many young at-risk students lack. Educators have long acknowledged the direct correlation between student motivation and student achievement. Consequently, the incorporation of the character education/leadership program into the pre-existing ESPM Zone program is measurably significant.

Mr. West and various members of his team work with the ESPM Zone students every other Tuesday for the full eighth period class, employing in-person interaction, media and technology. Additionally, the program includes a parental outreach component through which Mr. West establishes a one-on-one dialogue with the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the individual students. The program also provides professional development for the teachers and counselors that provide services through the ESPM Zone program.

The overall success of the ESPM Zone program will be assessed in a variety of ways inclusive of the improvement of grades, goal attainment, attendance, and surveys.

Additionally, the stimulus funding for this character education/leadership program allows for the provision of similar services to a designated group of STARS students at Glenfield and Mt. Hebron Middle Schools. This character education/leadership program will also run for six (6) months.

A salient predictor for academic achievement is a student’s capacity for deferred gratification. Many academically at-risk students have no concept of deferred gratification in any aspect of their lives. Many have “magical” dreams, having no rational conception and/or commitment to the steps necessary to the attainment of such dreams. For a variety of reasons they have not learned to set and believe in achievable goals that have personal significance to them. They have not yet mastered the ability to press on in the face of adversity. As a result, ultimately many of them give up, quit, and/or fall far short of the academic masteries that are essential to their lifelong success in the 21st century.

Mr. West’s team and program provide real world, tangible connections that classroom teachers for the most part cannot access. Bringing in successful veteran professional athletes, who share personal childhood goals, obstacles, and successes, provides an opportunity for the internalization of hope and drive that is outside of the typical classroom construct for these students.

In a word, it’s MOTIVATING!

Article Date: Nov 03, 2009