A new program at Edison Intermediate/Middle School gives students having trouble completing their assignments an invitation to get help from teachers after school.

A new program at Edison Intermediate/Middle School gives students having trouble completing their assignments an invitation to get help from teachers after school.

ZAP is an effort "to provide positive outreach to our students," Edison principal Bob Baeslack said.

Students who have not completed assignments are given an invitation to attend a ZAP session, he said.

"The invitation truly is an invitation," Baeslack said. "They don't have to go and there are no penalties if they don't go," although ultimately students may pay the price of low grades.

Teachers are already available to help students before or after school, but the ZAP program aims to provide a less intimidating or threatening way for students to get the help they need, Baeslack said.

"It's not a situation of 'you have to do this or you're going to Saturday school,'" he said.

Three ZAP sessions have been held so far and others are scheduled for April 7, 16, 21 and 28.

"We try to make it an informal and comfortable setting," Baeslack said. "We hold them in the library, teachers bring cookies and, if they want to, students can wear their headphones while their doing their work."

Edison staff members are available to help students until 4:15 p.m., he said.

Teachers are participating in the ZAP program on a voluntary basis, Baeslack said. They do not receive a stipend.

Students usually work with someone other than their teacher at ZAP, he said.

"The first session we had, it was kind of nice because we had fourth-grade teachers working with seventh- and eighth-grade students who were in their class when they were younger," Baeslack said. "It was nice to see them reconnect."

Teachers help students with everything from a set of algebra problems to improving the sentence structure of an essay, he said.

ZAP is one of several action plans Edison staff are implementing this year under the theme "Whatever it Takes," Baeslack said.

The theme is taken from the title of a book Edison teachers read as part of their staff development effort, he said.

Edison teachers are strengthening their focus on student learning, Baeslack said.

"Our goal is not just you have to get the assignment done," he said. "It's do you really understand the material and have you really learned."

Although ZAP is still getting established, the expectation is the program will continue next year, Baeslack said.

"The reaction from students has been mixed so far, to be honest," he said. "Some students are still resisting it, but others seem to really appreciate the opportunity to get some additional help. We have students who haven't been invited asking if they can come too."

afroman@thisweeknews.com