Tag: High School Improvement

Reform strategies give opportunities and voice to students

Reform strategies give opportunities and voice to students

Reading Time: < 1 minute

The National High School Center this summer is modeling two strategies that are central to education reform efforts: first by providing community-based education opportunities for local youth and second by giving voice to that student experience.

NHSC’s parent organization American Institutes for Research is sponsoring a student employee through Washington DC’s Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute (MYLI), a community program that provides learning and growth opportunities to DC youth. Daisha Hale, a 2011 graduate from Benjamin Banneker Academic Senior High School in Washington, DC, is working at AIR and last week published a post for the National High School Center’s High School Matters blog describing her experience with the MYLI.

West Wind is serving on the High School Matters blog editorial team and we are looking for high school students to contribute to the blog. West Wind also has been including local students and youth in our own programming, as well, such as our employment of students with disabilities through the local schools’ Transitions Service Center, serving as a mentor and Bronze Sponsor for Iowa City’s Fast Trac program, showcasing artwork by Tate High School students in our office gallery, and by inviting student contributors to our blog.

Can your organization provide community-based programs for students? Do you have structures—publications, meetings, etc.—where student voice should be present?

Building Capacity for Dual Credit in Southwest Ohio: The Promise of Regional Practices

Building Capacity for Dual Credit in Southwest Ohio: The Promise of Regional Practices

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[box class=”grey_box”]Deanna Hill conducted interviews with participants in dual credit symposia and wrote up this report describing her findings. The symposia brought together university faculty with high school teachers who teach mathematics courses that students receive university credit for completing.[/box]

In 2008, West Wind Education Policy Inc. (West Wind) received a grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation (Jennings Foundation) to develop and manage the Teacher Development Collaboratives (the Collaboratives)—a project designed to support the recruitment, retention and development of teachers in Ohio. The project created four Collaboratives1 across the state, one of which was the Southwest Teacher Development Collaborative hosted by the Hamilton County ESC.

Since the inception of dual credit in Ohio in 2007, the Hamilton County ESC has been a leader in bringing education leaders in K–12 and in Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs or higher education) together to provide opportunities for high school students to earn college credit in mathematics, science, and foreign language courses in high school. Hamilton County ESC Assistant Superintendent Kathy Thornton, in collaboration with partners from K–12 and higher education, was instrumental in obtaining and managing three consecutive state dual credit grants to Region 132 to support these collaborative efforts.

In its first year, the Southwest Collaborative focused on building capacity and creating a sustainable model for dual credit coursework in the region. Prior to the award of the second year of funding, the Hamilton County ESC leveraged resources it garnered through its 2009 dual credit grant to implement some of the ideas that were generated by the Southwest Collaborative. One such idea was to host symposia focused on content alignment that would further position schools and universities to prepare and partner on dual credit programming.

In February 2009, the Hamilton County ESC collaborated with the University of Cincinnati’s Clermont and Raymond Walters branch campuses to develop and deliver a symposium on dual credit for pre-calculus courses. The symposium was facilitated by the ESC, with presentations from Clermont and Raymond Walters faculty and a “voluntary adjunct” (a high school teacher approved as an adjunct, as is required to teach dual credit courses). Participants included K–12 administrators and teachers (some of whom had dual credit in their schools and/or were already approved as voluntary adjuncts) as well as higher education administrators. The focus of the first symposium was on helping participants understand the concept of dual credit, networking across the system, and beginning to investigate alignment of the high school and college pre-calculus curriculum.

In April 2009, with support from the Jennings Foundation and West Wind, the group developed and delivered a second symposium. The second symposium was again facilitated by the ESC, with presentations from the higher education faculty and voluntary adjunct. In part because the second symposium was promoted as an opportunity for participants to earn university credit, there were fewer participants overall and a few new K–12 participants who had not attended the first symposium. The focus of the second symposium was on networking and rigor, with K–12 teachers and higher education faculty examining textbooks and scoring exams together.

The overarching objectives for both symposia were to:

  • [Help participants] understand the concept of dual credit;
  • Increase the awareness of dual-credit and networking opportunities throughout the region;
  • Deepen the alignment between pre-calculus courses in regional high schools and institutions of higher education;
  • Increase rigor, access, and success for students in college-level courses in high school.

Following the symposia, higher education administrators and faculty met with interested K–12 administrators and teachers to provide additional information about dual credit and to assist teachers in applying for voluntary adjunct status.

To continute reading, download the full report.

Back to Top

Perspectives on Georgia’s High Schools

Perspectives on Georgia’s High Schools

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[box class=”grey_box”]A report on the Regional Focus Groups on High School Redesign and the Work of the High School Redesign Advisory Panel. Prepared for the Georgia Department of Education School Improvement Division.[/box]

Educators and the public in Georgia share a growing concern about the capabilities of the public education system going forward into the 21st century. Despite our best efforts, changing demographics, economic realities, and challenges to democracy put pressure on the system as a whole to improve. The good news is that much is being done to assess the current and future needs of students and to adjust or redesign our education systems accordingly. Over the past several years, the nationwide emphasis on early literacy and standards-based education reform opened the doors for improved student results. While many of these efforts are paying off in the early grades, improvements have not yet taken hold at the high school level nationwide or in Georgia. Rather than attempt to make incremental improvements to a system that is widely recognized as needing large-scale reform, the Georgia Department of Education has approached the challenge to improve student performance as an opportunity to redesign its high schools at the levels of both student and system outcomes. Initially, the Department endeavored to provide answers to three broad questions:

  • How do we create a sense of urgency and action in the high schools across the state in a way that motivates redesign and leads to improved student achievement?
  • How can the Georgia Department of Education align resources to affect high school improvement?
  • How can the School Improvement Division collaborate across the Division and the Department as a whole to help align inter- and intra-agency work to improve high school?

With these questions in mind, the Georgia Department of Education directed substantial resources to support secondary school improvement. In late 2004, the Department created the position of Coordinator of High School Improvement. It also directed a majority of its federal Comprehensive School Reform grants to high schools and middle schools. With the Board of Regents, the Department launched Education Go Get It in February, 2005, which is a program to encourage Georgia’s youth to embrace education in high school and beyond. Once these programs were in place, the Department began to plan the first steps toward its much larger goal of comprehensive high school evaluation and redesign.

In April 2005, the Department convened an Advisory Panel on High School Redesign, comprising leaders of statewide education associations, Department staff, and community partners. The Advisory Panel helped conceptualize the focus groups as forums for public engagement and information gathering. In August and September of 2005, the Georgia Department of Education organized a series of high school redesign focus groups, hosted by the Regional Education Service Agencies, with the purpose of identifying core areas for focus in Georgia’s effort to lead the nation in improving student achievement. The Department contracted West Wind Education Policy, Inc., an independent entity based in Iowa City, Iowa, and with no ties to the state of Georgia, to conduct the regional High School Redesign Focus Groups.

After collecting and analyzing focus group results, analysts at West Wind developed a series of recommendations based on those data. The Advisory Panel was again convened in December 2005 to review the findings and draft recommendations and again provide their input. The result is this report. It is hoped that the Department will use this resource as it develops a vision and state action plan for the redesign of high schools toward the goal of leading the nation in preparing high school students for education beyond high school and for their chosen fields of work.

Continue reading by downloading the full report (PDF).

Back to Top

High School Leadership: Preliminary Report

High School Leadership: Preliminary Report

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[box class=”grey_box”]A report introducing New Hampshire Vision for High Schools and representing stakeholder workshops, forums, and focus groups conducted throughout 2004 and 2005. Prepared for the State of New Hampshire Department of Education.[/box]


Educators, education policy makers, and key stakeholders in New Hampshire are calling for improvements in the overall performance and completion rates of their high school students. This report introduces the New Hampshire Vision for High Schools and represents a compilation of a number of stakeholder workshops, forums, and focus groups that were convened throughout 2004 and early 2005. Over five hundred representatives of nearly every high school in the state and a wide array of stakeholder groups came together in these face-to-face events to offer their perspectives, hopes, and fears about high school in New Hampshire. The purpose of this report is to inform ongoing efforts to improve high schools in New Hampshire.

Why Be Concerned About High School in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire has a great deal that is going right related to its high schools. Graduation rates have increased steadily throughout the 20th century. New Hampshire’s business and community members have long supported its high schools as they endeavor to ensure quality educational outcomes for their students. New Hampshire’s citizens enjoy a relatively positive economic context—the lowest poverty rate in the nation, the fourth lowest unemployment rate, and the 7th highest per capita income. New Hampshire added over 65,000 new jobs between 1990 and 1996.

That said, New Hampshire’s stakeholders also recognize that the skills and knowledge needed to succeed are rapidly changing. Though graduation rates have increased throughout the 20th century, the high schools designed for the 20th century are not preparing students for success in the 21st. Over half of the jobs that New Hampshire added between 1990 and 1996 were for college-educated workers—and at least half of the projected new jobs in New Hampshire will also be for college graduates. Despite this reality, New Hampshire’s high school graduates are not as prepared for admission to college as they should be. Remediation rates among freshman entering college are significantly high. In addition, New Hampshire is 19th in the nation in the rate of postsecondary enrollments among high school graduations, thus relying on an in-migration of skilled workers to fill the most lucrative jobs.

High school graduates not planning to go to college immediately need more from their high school experience. As the American Diploma project states,

Successful preparation for both postsecondary education and employment requires learning the same rigorous English and mathematics content and skills. No longer do students planning to go to work after high school need a different and less rigorous curriculum than those planning to go to college.

No matter what the level of education that students complete, those with more education earn more than those with less. Yet, New Hampshire is 20th in the nation in its rate of high school completion. Even more telling, fifty-two percent of high school students feel only “somewhat prepared” to enter the workforce and twenty-two percent feel “unprepared,” while forty-five percent of employers feel students are only somewhat prepared and forty-five percent believe students are unprepared for work.

Awareness of these statistics coupled with an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement has spurred the New Hampshire impetus for creating a vision and a blueprint for high school improvement.

What Is Being Done?

The New Hampshire Department of Education convened a High School Leadership Team in 2004. With a small planning grant and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Education, the leadership team developed a series of activities leading to the creation of a high school vision and blue print that can help to frame local high school improvement efforts. First among these activities was the engagement of education stakeholders.

The Leadership Team is comprised of a representative cross-section of New Hampshire stakeholders and advocates. Membership on the Leadership Team continues to expand as the effort gains momentum.”

The data and commentary compiled in this report will be used by the High School Leadership Team as they craft a vision statement for high schools in New Hampshire. The results of this report will also be shared with additional stakeholders at the March 2005 conference on Breaking Ranks II, which is being organized by the New Hampshire School Principals Association and the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Out of these many gatherings of concerned New Hampshire stakeholders, a vision for New Hampshire’s high schools is beginning to take shape. Future forums and reports will continue the process of clarification and engagement so that the resulting vision statement and initiatives can best support local efforts to improve high schools.

Continue reading by downloading the full report (PDF).

Back to Top

Library image (cc) Jonathan

Arizona HS Renewal & Improvement Initiative

Arizona HS Renewal & Improvement Initiative

Reading Time: 4 minutes

[box class=”grey_box”]A needs assessment for the context of improving Arizona’s high schools, based on Regional Focus Groups on High School Renewal and prepared for the Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona High School Renewal and Improvement Initiative State Team.[/box]


Arizona is poised to usher in exciting renewal activities in its high schools, activities that will help to ensure all students in Arizona achieve to high levels and graduate from high school ready for college, work, and success in life. A broad cross-section of school, community, and governmental leaders are looking at the performance of Arizona’s high school students and are studying ways to improve the goals, organization, and results of Arizona’s high schools.

There are many reasons why Arizonans believe high school renewal so critical. Most significant are hopes that more and more of Arizona’s high school students ultimately will graduate and that they will graduate proficient in Arizona’s content and performance standards. Only 76.4% of students starting high school in the fall of 1998 graduated by spring 2003. 33.6% of Arizona’s Hispanic students did not graduate in five years, 37% of Native American students did not graduate; and 29.8% African American did not graduate in five years. Further, there is not general consensus that each of those students who did graduate was well prepared for a competitive economy or post-secondary education.

In an effort to ensure all of Arizona’s high school students achieve to the standards, the Arizona State Legislature recently authorized an assessment and accountability system, which requires all students to pass Arizona’s Instrument for Measuring the Standards, or the AIMS test, in order to graduate. The class of 2006 is the first class that will be required to pass AIMS to graduate. In the spring 2004 administration (the first opportunity the class of 2006 had to take the test, which was when they were sophomores), 59% of that class who took AIMS without accommodations passed the reading portion, 62% passed the writing portion, and 39% passed the mathematics portion of the AIMS assessment. In the fall 2004 administration, students were retested in areas where they underperformed. 36% of the class who took the reading “retest” passed, 46% of 11th graders who took the writing retest passed, and 22% of the class who took the mathematics retest passed.

Statewide concern that all students pass the AIMS test is creating conditions for real renewal to occur in Arizona’s high schools. Arizonans across the board are eager for change—and they are ready for a legitimate group of stakeholders to provide leadership in identifying strategies for renewal that schools, school districts, and communities can join together to undertake.

To help provide that leadership, the Arizona Department of Education convened a statewide team to study the high school context in Arizona and to develop action plans for high school renewal. After their first full meeting in the summer of 2004, the State Team determined they needed to conduct a needs assessment of stakeholders from across the state in order to determine the unique Arizona context for improving high school. In response, the Arizona Department of Education and WestEd joined to organize four Regional Focus Groups on High School Renewal. The Focus Groups were held October 14 in Yuma, October 15 in Tucson, October 18 in Flagstaff, and October 19 in Phoenix. The Focus Groups were convened to advise the Arizona High School Renewal and Improvement Initiative State Team on:

  • What matters most to the many diverse stakeholders unique to Arizona;
  • What are the expectations for student performance within the schools and the
    broader community;
  • What students need in order to be successful in high school;
  • What ideas for renewal hold promise or are at peril; and
  • How ready the schools and communities are to take on high school renewal

One hundred and eleven stakeholders took part in the focus groups, representing a diverse array of interests, including those of students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, elected officials, business and industry, higher education, and middle level education; charter schools, alternative schools, and regular comprehensive high schools; and urban, suburban, and rural schools. These stakeholders joined together to advise the AZHSRI State Team on the development and implementation of action plans for high school renewal. (A listing of participants in each of the four focus groups is included as Appendix 2.)

Questions were posed to each focus group in order to elicit their priorities, analyses, and ideas. In general, focus group participants felt the process captured their comments and were satisfied the goals of the focus groups were met. (See Appendix 4 for detailed evaluative data from the focus groups.) This report will be forwarded to each participant for their individual review.

Researchers analyzed the results and prepared the following recommendations for the AZHSRII State Team and the Arizona Department of Education. The AZHSRII State Team will be meeting February 2, 2005, to review these recommendations and the various initiatives underway in Arizona around high school renewal. At that meeting, the State Team will begin to develop a series of action plans to encourage state and local improvement efforts.

It is anticipated that additional data will be gathered at focus groups in communities that were under-represented in the regional sessions. In particular, one focus group will be organized within the Native American community. There is hope that a second focus group will be convened of high school students who have either dropped out, are at risk of dropping out, or who are in alternative high school programs.

Continue reading by downloading the full PDF.

Back to Top

Theme: Overlay by Kaira