DALLAS -- Want to make sure students are on track to accomplishing required learning?Offer electives.It seems counterintuitive, but LaCreole sixth-grade teachers and administrators are believers; they've seen it in action.The last two weeks of school last year, LaCreole asked volunteers to teach enrichment classes -- elective-like sessions on topics of interest: dance, art, cooking, PE activities and computer games, for example.The classes were held during the school's advisory period that is typically used for interventions and catching up on assignments. Enrichment opportunities were offered to only the sixth-graders who were earning at least Cs in their classes and had all work turned in.LaCreole Principal Jamie Richardson said the incentive of being able to do something fun lit a fire under students who had work to do. He said students were even checking with their teachers beforehand to make sure they weren't missing assignments. And those who did have work to turn in were more eager to get it done."It was pretty impressive, the whole thing working together," Richardson said. "It added motivation and it wove in intervention for the kids. We saw a lot of things handed in, but we also saw a lot of learning because the students had time with their teachers."The gains are especially encouraging given that students are facing even more difficult learning standards. Teachers at LaCreole were and still are concerned about making sure students are learning what is required before leaving the school. Photo by Pete Strong Elective offerings help motivate and increase student performance. "We want to make sure that when we hand off our kids to the high school that we basically have them ready to go," Richardson said. "That's our goal."LaCreole had already adjusted its advisory schedule second semester to hold students more accountable. Instead of going to the same advisory class each day, they visited each of their teachers one day a week to use the 40-minute period to catch up on just that subject.Richardson said the majority of students, however, didn't need the time because they were caught up. Those students were asked to just sit in the classroom and find something to do on their own."We needed additional enrichments because those students have done everything we have asked them to do," he said.After the success of the two-week pilot project with sixth-graders, LaCreole is planning to expand the program schoolwide. Richardson said the school will need a big boost from the community as many of the enrichments will need to be taught by volunteers."The two weeks that we did it, it was a huge success," he said. "We had people coming in from our community. It was wonderful. We saw a lot of great things happening and the teachers loved it."The hope is the program offers something of a replacement for electives -- eliminated in 2011-12 due to budget cuts -- and more instructional time for students who need it."We started out with a big concern and we still have a big concern about student performance," Richardson said. "But I think we are headed in the right direction to at least get to the source: is it motivation or ability level? And those are two things we can work with."For more information or to volunteer: 503-623-6662.