PLATTEVILLE — The joke is that if high school or college freshmen are lucky, they become sophomores.
But the success of first-year students at the high school or college level is no laughing matter for high schools and colleges anymore. At both levels, studies show that how a student’s freshman year goes directly affects the student’s ability to avoid F grades and graduate.
UW–Platteville has a weekend program designed for new UWP students starting Friday. Platteville High School’s Class of 2016 will have the school all to themselves for Freshman Fast Start Day when classes begin Tuesday; the rest of the high school doesn’t start classes until Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Last school year, the 111-member PHS Class of 2015 had 49 Fs given to 14 freshmen. That, however, represents an uptick from a year earlier, when the Class of 2014, which had one more student, had 42 freshman Fs.
The Platteville School District’s 2012 Report indicates that the high school has a 95.4 percent graduation rate, higher than the state’s 87 percent graduation rate, but less than the 97.5-percent rate of the 2010–11 school year. The school district had nine high school dropouts last year, a rate of 1.39 percent, slightly less than the state rate of 1.46 percent, but up from three dropouts in 2010–11.
PHS Principal Jeff Jacobson said teachers had discussed giving freshmen the school all to themselves for the first day in previous years.
“Last year among the high school staff, this got to be a lively conversation again,” he said. “Certainly we have a goal of taking that 49 number to zero.”
In the 2005–06 school year, the 118-member Platteville High School Class of 2009 had 124 Fs, an average of more than one per student.
The next school year, the high school started smaller guided study groups and a Senior Mentor program. A Study Table started in the 2009–10 school year, followed one year by an English Topics class.
The first Freshman Fast Start Day will build on an activity from the freshmen’s eighth-grade, the signing of the Jostens Commitment to Graduate pledge.
Of the other activities, said Jacobson. “Many of them are to alleviate those first-day fears.” Others are to “build that school spirit that is so critical to making that emotional attachment” to Platteville High School. “If they get off to a good start for the year they will graduate; they will do well.”
UW–Platteville’s Welcome Weekend/New Student Orientation is designed to introduce the 1,700 UWP freshmen to their university.
“They may know how to be successful at their high school, but college is a whole different animal,” said David Nevins of UWP’s Pioneer Involvement Center.
The schedule, which is online at www.uwplatt.edu/admission/orientation.html, starts Friday with Walk Your Class Schedule from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce Merchant Scavenger Hunt and Welcome Picnic will be held at 4 p.m. A Playfair will be held at 8 p.m., followed by a Welcome Social.
On Saturday, student information sessions focus on such issues as study skills and campus safety. A Rockin’ Block Party will be held from 4 to 8 p.m., and the movie “The Avengers” will be shown outside the Circle Halls at 8:30 p.m.
On Sunday, vans will transport students to Walmart, Kmart, Piggly Wiggly and other businesses from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A Pioneer Athletics Welcome will be held at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium at 7:45 p.m. A Library Super Ball Drop with prizes will be held outside Karrmann Library at 10 p.m. Millennium Cinema will offer free movies, and Pioneer Lanes will have Cosmic Bowling at 11 p.m.
On Labor Day at the Markee Pioneer Student Center, an All Campus Welcome Back Fest will be held at 4:30 p.m., followed by the It Boys at 7 p.m., the Klements Sausage Race at 8 p.m., and We the Kings at 8:30 p.m.