For some students, it really did work. One student went from being in the "F" range to the "A" range, in one week! Other students, who were very far behind, greatly increased their output from the previous four weeks. I take some responsibility for not enacting some changes sooner, but at the same time, the students have access to everything they need to succeed, and I have been teaching the skills each day. I believe that the age group of the students has a lot to do with the difficulty adjusting to the environment. Many of them are used to being dragged along and doing half-baked work just to get by. That isn't acceptable here - they need to make decisions, create things, and most of all, demonstrate clear learning of skills.
There is certainly learning occurring that transcends just academic stuff. They are learning how to justify their work, prove their learning, collaborate, schedule, and revise. Some students are thriving. I have one student who is going to be finished way ahead of schedule, so I will see how will the "Challenge Standards" I have created keep them motivated.
After grading websites this week, I'll be able to re-evaluate grades and see where students stand. My hope is that at least half of the ten students I spoke to have made it to passing, and that the other five have made significant gains towards passing. We'll see. It is easy at this point to doubt the new model, but after visiting Forest Park Middle School in Franklin Wisconsin last Friday, I saw a lot of similarities between what they are doing in their math classes for 8th grade, and what I am doing here. Hopefully I can help the students who are behind make some good choices the rest of the way to get back on track.