A Brief Review of Urban High School Reform

Report
Size Does Matter and
Small IS Beautiful!
Presentation by:
Kathleen A. Mullin, Director
Boston Public Schools
Office of High School Renewal
Fact:
American high schools operate in much
the same way today as they did 50 years
ago, leaving most of today's young
people without the academic preparation
they need to be successful in college,
work and their communities.
Making the Case for Small Schools – The Facts
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community.
The Education Pipeline Is Broken
Gaps In Attainment Are Caused By
Failures at Critical Points
For every ten students who start high school…
Seven will get a diploma (+1 will obtain a GED)
Five will enroll in a postsecondary institution
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Fewer than three will complete a Bachelor’s degree
within ten years
Why We Focus on High School
“If we asked all 8th graders to count off 1,2,3, it
would illustrate that:
• 1/3 will drop out,
• 1/3 will muddle through,
• 1/3 will be ready for college, work and
citizenship”
-Art Jarvis, Superintendent, Enumclaw, WA
High schools are the least effective, most
ignored, and hardest to improve
Toward Success at Scale (6.30.2003)
Remarks by Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director, Education
Currently in large high schools:
• Nearly one in five seniors cannot identify the main idea
in what they have read.
• Nearly two in five seniors haven't mastered the usage of
fractions, percents and averages.
• American high school student achievement ranks in the
lower half of the developed countries.
• American ninth graders study math taught to seventh
graders abroad.
• Nearly half of high school graduates who go on to
college require remedial courses.
Making the Case for Small Schools – The Facts
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community.
The reasons why
•
•
•
•
•
Anonymity
Incoherence
Isolation
Low expectations
Intractable
Making the Case for Small Schools – The Facts
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community.
Why Small? Tom VanderArk
• Decades of research have shown that high
schools with fewer than 400 students (no
more than 100 per grade level) provide the
most benefits to students.
– higher student attendance, motivation, graduation
rates, and college attendance; improved school
climate and safety; greater parent and community
involvement; and higher staff satisfaction.
• Small schools can operate effectively on the
same per pupil allocation as large schools.
http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Education/TransformingHighSchools/RelatedInfo/MakingCaseForSmallSchools.htm
Schools that help all students achieve
exhibit a common set of characteristics:
• Staff and students are focused on a few important
goals.
• Staff has high expectations for all students and a
shared vision of good teaching.
• Staff has time to collaborate to improve instruction
and meet shared challenges.
• Instruction and promotion are based on
demonstrated learning.
• Every student has an advocate at school.
• The school environment promotes respect and
responsibility.
• Technology is used as an effective teaching and
learning tool.
http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Education/TransformingHighSchools/RelatedInfo/MakingCaseForSmallSchools.htm
Great high schools come in
many shapes and sizes.
• Three common elements:
– expect every student to graduate ready for college or a familywage job;
– engage all students in challenging coursework that is relevant to
their lives and aspirations; and
– are likely to be small – educating no more than 100 students per
grade so that they get personal attention in a safe, respectful
environment.
• Three general categories:
– traditional
– theme-based
– student-centered
http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Education/TransformingHighSchools/ModelSchools/default.htm
Students in small schools
• feel less alienated and tend to be more actively engaged in
school activities.
• are far less likely to experience physical danger, loss of
property and the demoralizing effects of vandalism.
• had higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates than their
peers in larger schools. (New York)
• had dropout rates one-third lower than students attending big
schools. (Chicago)
Making the Case for Small Schools – The Facts
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community.
Features of Promising Schools:
Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships
• High standards and expectations
• A culture of personalization
• Small learning communities
• Evidence-based practices
• Strong community relationships and
learning opportunities
Successful Small School
Smallness
Unifying
Vision
Three Conditions for Successful Small Schools
New England Small Schools Network
Autonomy
Important Conclusions About
Small Schools
• “Academic achievement in small schools is at least equal –
and often superior – to that of large schools…”
• Grouping instructional strategies associated with higher
student performance are more often implemented in small
schools…”
• Student attitudes are often more positive in small schools
• Small schools have a higher rate of parental involvement.
• Teacher attitudes toward their work and their administrators
are more positive.
• Small schools are effective in combating the effects of poverty
on student achievement and in narrowing the achievement
gap.
Cotton, Kathleen. School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance. Portland, OR: NREL, 1997. 5Ibid
What 16-24 Yr Olds Want & Need
from a Learning Environment
“Get to know me, I’m
not what you think.”
“. . . Here they hook you up with
what you’re interested in. I now
know there are people out there
doing things they want to do. I can
do what I care about.”
What 16-24 Yr Olds Want & Need
from a Learning Environment
“College was like a dream for
me, now it’s a goal. A dream is
something you usually can’t get.
A goal is just a hop, skip and a
jump away.”
What 16-24 Yr Olds Want & Need
from a Learning Environment
“I work harder here because
they hold me to a higher
standard. But if I’m having a
hard time, they try to find out
why and help me figure it out.”
“Not only do we do academic
and written work, but we have
hands-on experiences in our
field.”
Strengths/Accomplishments
• More attention to low achievement and
achievement gaps in high school
• Existence proofs of schools that help kids beat
the odds
• New learning options for young people
• Increasing teacher focus on reading/writing
across the curriculum
• Conversion of large, unsafe high schools into
educational “multiplexes” of small schools
Challenges
What Challenges Do You
Envision?
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•
•
•
Structural
Human Resource
Political
Symbolic
Structural Challenges
• Schools going through transformation need substantial technical
assistance to build capacity. (Leadership, Middle Management,
classroom )
• Identifying and developing interventions for over-age and other
youth at risk of not graduating
• Existing BPS Policies
• Facilities
• Redesign of Central Support
• Customizing to meet student needs without tracking
• Building capacity at school and district level for continuous
improvement
• Getting balance of autonomy and accountability right
• Sustaining innovation based on soft $$
Human Resource Challenges
• Continuing the scale-up of teaching and learning
for all students
• Changes in workforce
– Recruit highly qualified administrators and staff
– Address the impact of retirements on staffing
• Design new and unique job descriptions to
better match the goals of small schools and
SLCs
Symbolic Challenges
• Unions as partners
• Community engagement around new
conceptualization of school
• Student voices are important
• Create new understanding that small schools
and SLCs are not punitive measures.
• The stakeholders need to own the process for it
to be successful. (Students, teachers, parents,
community)
Political Challenges
• Union Contract
• Building community support and demand for
high school renewal
• Engaging more students in the reform effort
• Aligning central office support and resources
• Community and Family Engagement
• Simultaneous and complementary reform at
school and district levels
“The difficulty lies not so much
in developing new ideas as in
escaping from the old ones.”
John Maynard Kynes

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