The Freshman Academy @ Washington High School



This introduction will give you an overview of what we are doing and a context for our work. Washington High School has about 1900 students in grades nine through twelve. We are in the southeast corner of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, a vibrant metro community of over 200,000. If you have questions I can be reached here.

The Freshman Academy was started in the fall of 2008.

For the graduation class of 2018, our school posted the following results:

2017-2018 Data Profile and Report Card

We have a free/reduced lunch population of 47.5% by District measures and 39% by the State measure. Our diversity is much higher than the city at large with 42.5% of our high school students coming from the African American, Hispanic, and Native American communities.

The Freshman Academy is a blended high school transition model. Freshmen do not have a separate wing or floor but are integrated into the school structure with four teams of teachers monitoring the progress of our freshmen. There are about 400 freshmen in The Freshman Academy.

Teacher who are a part of The Freshman Academy have seven periods in their day. One period is a short study hall and a lunch. One period is a personal planning time. One period is a team planning time. And each teacher teaches four class periods.

Here is a link to the master schedule from 2015-2016 which is a good representation of our yearly schedule.

Teachers on The Freshman Academy teach the following:

Algebra I and Algebra Skills/Online Algebra and Coop Algebra (With SPED teacher)
English I, Accelerated English I, and Coop English I
Biology and Survey of Biology

About 75% of all our freshmen are in The Freshman Academy. The rest of the freshmen may have only one or none of The Freshman Academy teachers due to Accelerated classes, SPED, ELL, or reclassification.

Cost in FTE

The Freshman Academy costs an additional 3.5 FTE to cover the cost of The Freshman Academy Coordinator (1.0) and to pay for time for teachers to meet.


Percentage of students who became sophomores at the end of their freshman year:

2009 -94.1%

2010 – 93.6%

2011 -NA

2012 – 94%

2013 – 92.1%

2014 – 94%

2015 – 95.6%

2016 – 94.8%

2017 – 96.2%

2018 – 95.3%

2019 - 95.1%

Semester Exams

Each semester all freshmen students in the Sioux Falls School District take the same semester exams in the core subjects. The Freshman Academy students consistently perform significantly better on Algebra and Biology semester tests and match or nearly match scores in English and World Geography despite having a higher poverty rate.

Elements of Success

The Freshman Academy @ Washington High School strives to bring about ridiculous success for each student by focusing on these six areas:

Fantastic classroom instruction

Facilitating a positive team culture

Focusing on learning through homework completion

Figuring out systems that make relationships happen

Featuring the adults (parents, teachers, and mentors) in the lives of students

Facilitating leadership training of students to bring about learning

This blog is devoted to expanding and developing ideas related to these six areas.