Our Freshman Academy


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 at ToddNovak1991@gmail.com.

The Freshman Academy was started in the fall of 2008.

For the graduation class of 2014, our school posted the following results:

NCLB Report (2014) for Washington High School

We have a free/reduced lunch population between 30% and 35%. Our diversity is much higher than the city at large with 1/3 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 for 2015-2016 for The Freshman Academy.

Each of the four (4) Teams is made up of teachers who teach the following subjects:

  • Algebra IA and Algebra Skills
  • English IA and Accelerated English IA
  • Biology
  • World Geography (This is a semester class so the two teachers switch teams at semester.)

About 85% of all our freshmen are in The Freshman Academy. The rest of the freshmen may have one or fewer of The Freshman Academy teachers due to 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%

During the 2014-2015 school year Washington High School had 95% of all freshmen move to sophomores. Lincoln High School and Roosevelt High School, who are similarly sized high schools in our district and who do not have a freshman academy, had 85% and 90%, respectively, move on to 10th grade.

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 Physical Science 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 with upperclassmen to bring about learning

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


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