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Students Achieve at a County and Community School

Posted by 
Mitch Weathers
March 20, 2016


"In order to be a successful student, one needs to see him/herself as a student first. I witness that happen through Organized Binder each day and with each new student who comes to camp." -Abbie Korman Stendahl


School: County and Community School | Northern California

The school and students featured in the March 2016 Newsletter must remain anonymous for student privacy and security. What we can tell you is that this is a residential County and Community School and serves incarcerated youth. Teacher Abbie Korman Stendahl has sent us feedback on how Organized Binder has had an impact on her classroom and students.


Abbie Korman Stendahl is an English and history teacher in her sixth year teaching. Currently, she works with incarcerated youth in the Court and Community Schools in Northern California. Previously, Abbie worked for five years at an urban, Title 1, comprehensive high school where she taught AVID, Read180, CAHSEE Prep, and every grade level of English 9-12. She knows what it is like to have three preps every year, teach classes of 36, and to have 170 students on your caseload to get to know, connect with, and teach.

Now, in integrated classes of 9th-12th graders, her goal is to facilitate learning and a sense of empowerment through engaging, scaffolded, and organized curriculum for small class sizes of incarcerated boys. Ms. Korman’s English and history course content are aligned and allow students an in-depth, multidisciplinary lens through which to analyze literature and gain historical thinking skills. In the classroom, students use the Character Based Literacy (CBL) program developed at the Santa Clara University, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, tools from E3: Education, Excellence, Equity, and Organized Binder.


Most of my students self-identify as young men who were not successful as students before coming to court school. Many students admit that not only did they not have organized binders, but they “didn’t do homework and didn’t bring a backpack to school” either. At our court school, there are many of factors in place that allow students to focus on school in a way that was not a reality for them before, and a main one of those is Organized Binder.

My classes are made up of young men who live on-site at an honor camp and are monitored 24 hours a day. Students work each week in school and in their mandated after-school programs to earn their release. The transition to our school is a difficult one; for many, this is the first time they are required to do the work and homework expected of them. There is no truancy, there are few distractions,  there is mandatory study hall in the evenings, and there are security guards in the room; students must try in school, or they will not be released.

While school is so important to students’ release, it is not something many students feel comfortable with or are ready for when they first arrive; their affective filters are high, they do not feel they have ready many tools with which to be successful, and it is more academic work than they are used to having to do. I believe Organized Binder is one of the main tools in the classroom which helps students transition and succeed.

I believe all students are uniquely intelligent and all are capable of success. Unfortunately, many of my students have a history of negative experiences in school where they have not felt that to be true. At camp, in my classroom, I believe it is my job to help my students see themselves as the students I know they can be. At camp, with clear routines each day, an organized binder, and a map of our day, week, and unit, students get the hang of school and know what is expected of them. The longer students are in my classroom using the Binder, the more and more academic they become. The youth begin to see themselves as students, and their mindsets change. I am losing track of hearing students say, ”you know, I don’t like school, but I actually kind of like school.” I think this contradiction comes from years of not succeeding in the classroom and finally feeling successful as a student at camp.

In a survey at the end of the unit, it is telling that 73% of my students reported being more organized now than they were “on the outs”, and the remaining 27% were almost all the students newest to our school. Because students attend our school as a court-ordered sentence, we have a constant flow students serving their six to nine months at different times throughout the school year. The Organized Binder is an anchor for students showing up at different times of the school year to our unit, but it can feel unfamiliar and unusual at first. For new students, Organized Binder allows them to look like everybody else, to jump right into our lessons, and to have all of the papers everyone has; it is easy to find the papers they need to be on task, and seated next to a peer who has been in class longer, they are able to catch on quite quickly.

In our class survey, students who have been at camp longer wrote about themselves that: they “take academics more serious [sic],” “I always do my homework”, “I actually learn a lot because I am organized”, “I do work, behave good [sic], show up to school, and learn”, “I am more open minded and learned to be successful in life I need school”, “I try here” ,“I get homework done. I am organized. I’m always on task”, “I do some of my work and its [sic] fun to learn.” While students are required to be in school each day and to complete homework each night, it does not have to mean that they actually learn or change their attitude toward school, but it is what happens at camp.

At camp, many students are able to finally see themselves as students, successful ones, who show up every day, know where every paper is, and are organized. Students say, the  “organized binder helps because it makes it easier to access assignments” and “organize binders help me find my work easily.” When asked one way Ms. Korman’s class is different than other classes they have had, students report “very organized” and “i’ve been able to get my homework done more using the organized binder.”

This is similar to classes at the comprehensive high school I worked at - students remember and utilize our skills of organization on a daily basis, and it stands out to them. It empowers them. It is often the thing in my class that is reported as what they have learned most - not English or history standards that we, of course, are hitting each day. But that they have learned to be organized. I think this is because this is a tangible, measurable step for students to see their own growth.  This is a clear first step toward success. In order to be a successful student, one needs to see him/herself as a student first. I witness that happen through Organized Binder each day and with each new student who comes to camp.

I have seen Organized Binder work in classes of 36 at a comprehensive high school, and I have seen it work in class sizes as small as four with incarcerated youth. It has worked in English class, AVID class, and history class, with ninth graders and twelfth graders, honors students and students achieving far below standards. No matter the curriculum and no matter the demographics of the students, I have always and will always use Organized Binder. It works, and it is transformative.

“What’s one thing you are proud of?”

“that im actually doing my work”



"I believe more schools should do the Organized Binder. it is very useful and will help kids become organized. It will also help kids do better in school."

"All schools should use Organized Binder because it helped me stay organized and helped me get ready for class everyday."

"Organized Binder helps my binder from being a complete mess of papers."

"I think that Organized Binder is really helpful."


Below are a few highlights from the survey. You can download the entire survey results from this Northern California County and Community School as a pdf by clicking the pdf icon below.

Get and stay organized CCS NorCA

Orgb helps me be a better student CCS NorCA

Orgb helps me get caught up when absent CCS NorCA



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