Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students

Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students

Over a decade ago, I presented at a SIATech Conference in California. In my presentation, I spoke about the importance of using the term “at-promise” as opposed to the term “at-risk”.

Larry with Linda Dawson from RAPSAI had been promoting this concept for years because of my belief in the necessity of focusing on a student’s potential and positive attributes as opposed to their challenges. It was at this conference that I met Linda Dawson. She told me that she believed it was important to embrace the term “at-promise” and she intended to make this a priority.  

A short time later, she contacted me to discuss using my term “at-promise” as the premise for forming the organization RAPSA, which stands for Reaching At-Promise Student Association. I agreed and thought it was a wonderful idea!

However, I never could have imagined that RAPSA would go on to use this concept to successfully push for, and eventually pass, a law called AB-413 that changed the California Education Code. Yet, that’s exactly what they did. 

Changing the Mindset of Teachers Working with At-Promise Students

This action is so much more than semantics. AB-413 is about changing the paradigms, or the mindsets, of teachers that work with these students. This idea is essential in getting teachers to recognize the potential of these students and use that potential to guide them to success. 

Larry with Ernie Silva from RAPSAOn November 13, 2019, I presented on Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students at the RAPSA Conference in San Diego. What made this conference exciting was the fact that RAPSA is building a successful movement to create change. It’s a movement that is grassroots.

Most of the people involved are teachers or principals that work directly with students that are struggling. This is not a top-down change. This is a change practitioners feel is imperative, and they’re fighting the fight to make it a reality. They were successful in making the change in California, and they’re now helping other states to do the same. 

Getting AB-413 passed is a tremendous accomplishment, and I congratulate all of those who worked hard to get it done. However, we all are aware that much more work needs to be done going forward. Now the rubber must meet the road. Now teachers and principals must implement the strategies necessary to provide the support these students need.

It’s one thing to believe it, and it’s another thing to have strategies to act upon it every day. This is why when RAPSA asked me to conduct a workshop that was designed to specifically show teachers how to do that, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Using Specific Strategies to Empower Teachers 

I provided the teachers with a multitude of simple strategies they could implement every day that would help students academically. I also gave them specific strategies to use to build positive relationships and create positive classroom cultures.

In addition, I modeled ways to make the classroom more engaging and talked about how to determine if students are, in fact, engaged. We discussed ways to bring these strategies back to the school and help others to get on board and use them as well. It was a fun, strategy-packed workshop! Workshops like these will help teachers and principals ensure that all of their students are successful. 

There is much that remains to be done in California to create learning environments that support the students of today. The challenges that these students face are different in several ways from those of students in decades previous. As a result, our schools and classrooms need to be different as well.

As we move forward in doing this, we will create schools that are relevant and that embrace and support all of our students, allowing them to reach their greatest potential.

Attend a Larry Bell Seminar in 2020!

For any of you that are interested in creating a movement like this in your state, you may contact me and I can put you in touch with RAPSA. You can also visit their website at RAPSA.org. 

For those of you interested in learning more about Reaching the Promise of At-Promise Students, you can attend my two-day seminar on this topic which will be held in two locations. The first will be held from February 24-25, 2020 in Milpitas, California. The second will be held from March 2-3 in Carlsbad Beach, California.

For more information on these seminars, you can visit the seminar page of my website Larry-Bell.com. Hope to see you in California!

About the Author

Larry Bell, a Citadel graduate, is a 30+ year veteran in education. Fifteen of those years were spent as a classroom teacher where he was nominated for the National Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. As a teacher at Gar-field High School, a school with over 3,000 students speaking 36 different languages, Larry was recognized for his innovative classroom strategies that allowed his so called “Tough Kids” as well as his “Gifted and Talented” to excel!