WHITELAND, Ind. (AP) — Students from Whiteland Community High School who are failing multiple classes shouldn't bother driving themselves to school.

They should keep their cellphones at home as well, because they won't be allowed to use them during the day. The same rules apply to students skipping or acting up in classes.

Also, freshmen and seniors who have ideas for how to use their guided instruction time — 20 to 40 minutes each day when students can get extra help from teachers with homework, retake tests or study — will have to keep their grades up.

Otherwise Whiteland will plan their instruction time for them.

Students often consider driving, using their cellphones and picking how to spend their time rights they're entitled to, but interim principal John Schilawski sees them as rewards. And he has no problem pulling them from high school students who haven't earned them.

The policy changes at Whiteland are part of a pilot program that gives students more incentive to keep their grades up and behave. Until now, the high school's discipline had been reactionary: If a student skipped or disrupted class, they were sent to detention.

Schilawski's hope is that now those students will think twice, knowing they could lose their driving and cellphone privileges.

Students' grades will be a big part of what Schilawski and teachers examine, and students won't be able to drive or use their phones if they're failing more than two courses. Seniors failing more than two courses or a course that's a graduation requirement will have their guided instruction time planned for them, as will freshmen failing any required course, he said.

Schilawski will regularly assess students' grades this year to see whether the program is working and whether it will continue and be expanded next year.

"The world will open up for people if they're on track and making their grades. We're no longer going to tolerate potential failures. And that's what the whole goal is," he told the Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/TYeMDt ).

Whiteland got the idea for the new policy from a school in Lincolnshire, Ill. The driving and cellphone policies apply to all students, while the guided instruction incentives are exclusive to freshmen, who need to know what will be expected of them for the next three years, and seniors, to ensure more of them graduate on time, Schilawski said.

Until now, Whiteland didn't intervene in freshman instructional time unless a student was failing Algebra I. That's because the end-of-course assessment is a graduation requirement, and the high school wanted to ensure students could pass, Schilawski said.

Now, Whiteland will intervene and provide additional instruction for students failing biology, English or social studies. Freshmen who are keeping their grades up in all of those courses can use the instructional time however they want, as long as they're doing something academic, Schilawski said.

The point of this is to prepare freshmen for the standards they'll be expected to meet the rest of high school, he said.

Seniors who are on track to graduate and who have no attendance or discipline issues can use their time however they want. That means senior Katelyn Aman can meet with classmates in her English and advanced calculus courses to work on homework. She likely wouldn't have had problems keeping her grades up without the new policy, though now she has added incentive.

"I know that, for me at least, I work harder when I know there's a reward behind it," she said.

Seniors don't have to work on school work. Students helping plan the prom or who are a part of school clubs can meet to work together, or they could spend the entire 40 minutes texting.

Senior Xavier Aké keeping said his grades up won't be as big a challenge as using his time wisely.

"It kind of forces you to make some real-life decisions," he said.

But if seniors' grades start slipping, if they're failing more than two courses or any course that would keep them from graduating, Whiteland will plan their instruction time for them to ensure they pass whatever courses they're failing, Schilawski said.

Sophomores and juniors also have guided instruction time, and Whiteland intervenes and provides additional instruction for sophomores failing English 10 and juniors who haven't passed the Algebra I or English 10 end-of-course assessments. Currently Whiteland doesn't have the staff to be able to bring additional help to students failing other subjects, though students can seek out those teachers on their own for extra help, Schilawski said.

He will consider expanding the program next year if it's successful, meaning students' grades rise this year. That could mean providing additional help for sophomores and juniors failing multiple subjects, and possibly extending lunches for students who earn the privilege, he said.


Information from: Daily Journal, http://www.thejournalnet.com