Posts Tagged ‘
high school graduation ’
In my last blog, I explained why international comparisons of student achievement like the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) provide an inadequate basis for justifying education reform. At the end of that blog, I suggested that there are other data sources that challenge us to think about a range of changes to public education. I now offer three data-driven rationales for reform.
The three data sets justifying serious consideration of education reform are these: (1) cohort dropout rates, (2) changes in workforce requirements, and (3) dramatic recent changes in the scope and content of the human knowledge base. Let’s consider each of these in order.
The cohort dropout rate describes the percent of students of each high school class who graduate on schedule at the end of the senior year, regardless of when a student leaves school. This statistic has drawn recent interest, as a result of the current ESEA regulations that require states to report cohort dropout rates at the state and school district levels.
The results are of concern, though they have been long recognized by educators. In Oregon, the state cohort dropout rate is about 34 percent, with a range of district rates from 14 percent to 66 percent (for districts with a least 100 students in the cohort). On a national level, the rate is estimated at around 30 percent, though we should be cautious in believing that this statistic is accurate. The national data set is compiled from state data and it is unlikely that reporting standards are identical in every state (though federal regulations should theoretically ensure consistency).
Considered independently, the cohort dropout rate is distressingly high. (more…)
I like to ask my fourth graders what college they are planning to attend. Of course, they think I’m asking them if they are a Duck or a Beaver. I am really serious about this though. Kids and parents need to know that some sort of post high school education is the goal for all Oregon kids.
This economy has taught us all that education is vital. Economists can debate whether current unemployment is cyclical, a downturn that will rebound, or structural, a result of a tipping of economic needs away from low skilled labor to the need for a more educated workforce. Whatever the case, the jobs of the future will require more advanced math skills and the ability to quickly master new skills. We can’t have kids think that ending their education after high school is an option that will lead to future financial security.
Since post secondary education is a necessity, I like to peruse the web in search of what college prep schools are doing. What are charter school expectations? What are elite schools doing for their students? I checked in with the Dalton School (NYC) to see what their fourth graders will be doing. The Dalton School has a $38,000 price tag and 60 staff for approximately 350 students. It may sound unfair but graduates from these schools will be competing with my students to get into top colleges. Their 4th graders have an hour and half of homework a night and an extensive reading list. We should expect our public school kids to have the same. We should also expect families to realize this new reality and do what it takes to support a more vigorous program and to expect their child to attend college.
In looking further I found charter schools in low income areas with graduates in elite colleges. This week the New York Times reported about efforts in Houston public schools to replicate effective charter schools like KIPP and Harlem Children’s Zone where a high percentage of graduates head to college (“Troubled Schools Try Mimicking the Charters” Sept. 6).
I really appreciate these charters for showing us what is possible. It’s too easy to look at impoverished neighborhoods and think that kids there can’t make it at competitive colleges. With concerted effort effective charter schools are cranking out the productive citizens of the future from some of the least productive neighborhoods.
In the article the author cited the 5 common policies of effective charters.
- longer school days and years;
- more rigorous and selective hiring of principals and teachers;
- frequent quizzes whose results determine what needs to be retaught;
- “high-dosage tutoring”;
- and a “no excuses” culture.
The policies that public school teachers like me can control are limited. Without more support staff, high dosage tutoring is out. Without a better funding structure we are severely limited in the amount of instructional time we can give kids. For example, KIPP kids typically get twice as much math instruction as public school kids. Even the Texas schools mimicking the model of KIPP fell short by 300 hours of instructional time (50 6 hr school days).
My colleagues and I are working hard to tailor instruction to meet individual needs through data collection and targeted standards-based instruction. Along with this comes a beefed-up “no excuses” culture.
Teachers will continue to look at research and mimic what works. Meanwhile, we’ll look to the citizens of this state to fill in the other requirements on the list. How will we provide more instructional time? How will we mobilize tutors to target failing students? When will we start showing kids in Oregon that they are important, and give them the tools they need to make college an attainable goal?
There are some very inspirational leaders in the education profession. These are the people who seem to have the capacity to view the big picture and articulate so clearly what they see and hear. Linda Nathan, headmaster of Boston Arts Academy, author, and Harvard instructor in democratic schools, is such a leader.
Linda came to Oregon in May as the keynote speaker at the Oregon Small Schools Leadership Institute in Ashland. The theme of the one day Institute, led by E3 Small Schools Director Kathy Campobasso, was “moving forward.” Linda spoke with rich and vivid examples on the importance of leadership with a strong and clear vision and about the complexities of sustaining the work of personalizing education through the power of small. Principals, teacher leaders, teachers, superintendents, and board members from 22 small high schools participated in a variety of break-out sessions. They shared outstanding practices that are happening in their schools and celebrated the positive results.
Students from southern Oregon small schools presented a panel on their small high school experiences. The concluding forum was presented by Duncan Wyse, Executive Director of E3, Barbara Gibbs of Meyer Memorial Trust, and Linda Nathan on the importance and challenges of moving forward with positive school change on the state and national level. All were inspirational!
Story #1: I teach International Relations at West Linn High, a course juniors and seniors can take to fulfill a social studies requirement. Part way through the spring semester, I was discouraged to realize that over half my 100 IR students were missing assignments. Considering we’d averaged only one homework assignment per week, and a couple of the assignments were quite easy, I was troubled. It is my goal only to assign homework I believe will benefit students, and when they don’t complete homework it hampers their ability to succeed.
So with complete parental and administrative support, I sprang a surprise on students: If you do not complete every assignment, you will not pass this class. Even if you’re earning a passing grade, if you have even one missing assignment, I will enter “incomplete” in the gradebook and you will not receive a credit. Some were shocked, realizing that no credit could mean not graduating.
I was nervous about the new policy. I wondered whether all students would pull through, and if they didn’t, if I’d be willing to be the one obstacle that stood between them and graduation. I wondered whether at crunch time a parent would challenge the policy.
Here’s my bottom line: The most important task of a school leader is to embrace the challenge of having a clear and shared vision of equitable outcomes for all students. It is the democratic principle of fairness upon which our country is founded and the basis for truly changing the achievement gaps that now prevail.
With the recent news that only 66% of Oregon students graduate high school, it’s clear that this vision does not “just happen.” It has to be owned and shared by the whole school community. It must be intentional, planned, implemented and supported to be sustainable. It must be evident every day, every week and every month in every classroom. All students, teachers and parents need to know and own a common vision of outcomes at their school. What must each student know and be able to do when he/she graduates? When this is clear and held dear, there is a true school spirit.
All students come from somewhere special, each with different backgrounds, different experiences and different circumstances. The whole of their differences is the beautiful mosaic of school. And when they come through the school doors, they are in a place where equity can happen. But there must be a roadmap for success for each student in each classroom across these differences.
Teachers must lead the way for the students. They must know their students well, understanding them across all their differences. They must ask the question: What does it take for a student to enter a school at one level of achievement, move forward, and then graduate with the highest potential achievement? That’s the daily challenge of teaching, at every level.
Let me be the first to admit that this may be a weird post for a blog mostly about larger policy issues. But there’s something I’ve been noticing lately that strikes me as odd, something I’m not sure what to think about: students outside of school.
I live near two different high schools, and during the course of a school day, I often see people who seem to be students but curiously don’t seem to be engaged in school activities or on school property. Today it might be two teens flipping skateboard tricks down the street from school; yesterday it might have been a group of kids hanging out at the mini-market a few blocks away; tomorrow it might be two lovebirds holding hands in the park.
I can’t pretend to know school schedules—if students have mornings or afternoons off, or if they’re legitimately on a break for lunch. And I certainly don’t mean to imply that students should be locked away in school buildings for six or seven hours at a time. But I often find myself wondering who’s looking after these children. Is there someone making sure that they are where they’re supposed to be? And as a citizen, what is my responsibility in helping to care for the children and teens in my community?
Some initial research led me to the Portland Police Bureau’s Truancy Reduction Ordinance. Though dealing with truancy starts with the schools and the parents, not the police bureau, this ordinance essentially gives members of the police license to stop and question kids who, like the ones I sometimes see in my neighborhood, don’t seem to be in school when they should be. It’s basically an ordinance that allows police a legislated way to get involved in cases where it seems schools or parents might be failing. And with some exceptions—check the website for details—it says that kids who have not yet graduated 12th grade are not allowed on “any street, highway, park, alley, or other public property during regular school hours.”
So knowing that, I come back to one of my first questions: If I see a kid during school hours skateboarding down my street, do I have any responsibility? I don’t mean that I may be liable for that kid—clearly I’m not. But in the larger sense of responsibility, in the sense that we’re all part of the same community and that kid is becoming the person who will build the world I am part of, do I have an obligation to ask what’s going on?
On the one hand, it’s none of my business what someone I don’t know is up to. I don’t want to assume that some teenager is breaking the law or doing something stupid just because I have some predetermined idea (just for the sake of argument) that kids want to skip school. But on the other hand, schools, parents, and police don’t have eyes everywhere. If it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m part of that village, shouldn’t I step up when I see something that might be amiss? Especially when I know that students who do not attend school on a regular basis are unlikely to graduate from high school, that truancy is often correlated to low achievement and even in extreme cases crime or gang involvement?
I skipped out on school as much as the next person in high school, for things that seemed important at the time: boyfriends, sunny weather, test avoidance. I wonder how things would have been different if people I’d run into had asked me why I wasn’t in school? I don’t want the world to just be a surrogate police force, always looking for other people doing something wrong, but sometimes I worry about these kids. Should I? What do you think a citizen’s role in helping kids through school is?
Sue Levin is the Executive Director of Stand for Children Oregon.
Last spring, I visited an amazing school in SE Portland – Centennial Learning Center (CLC).
How I got there was ironic. CLC was one of the state’s worst-performing schools, as measured by state test scores. Most of the kids are there because they flunked out or got kicked out of the district’s traditional high school, so the low scores seemed unsurprising.
But CLC’s principal, Jamie Juenemann, asked us to see for ourselves that this is not a failing school. And so, though I was skeptical, we visited. We met with CLC staff and students, where the kids prepare all the meals with vegetables grown in their garden – in between taking core literacy and math classes, and recovering lost credits.
CLC takes kids who’ve hit the end of the road in school and re-orients them toward college. The fact that more than 50% of their students graduate is a small miracle. With so much good happening at CLC, why then was this school on the state’s list? Because based on test scores and 4-year graduation rates alone, this school looks bad.
In fact, 17 of those 18 ‘worst-performing’ schools are high schools – which suggests that calling out low-performing schools is not useful if all we’re doing is blaming the end of the pipeline for what comes out of it.
Instead of asking which schools are failing, we need to ask what are our most effective schools doing right, and how do we promote those practices everywhere?
CLC teaches us a number of lessons.
1. All students can learn when talented and committed educators believe in them. Inside CLC and every successful school is a core of committed professionals who are motivated by a passion for teaching, because they are good at it. In a thriving school, these educators get support, training and tools from principals and district staff who share their mission and values.
Good teachers have no problem taking responsibility for their students’ success. They simply want the rest of us–administrators, parents, community leaders, and elected officials– to be accountable as well. (more…)
Oregon, as part of a consortium of states, is helping to develop a new assessment system that would align with the Common Core standards. Called the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, the group received federal funds to develop the new system and provide a model for any state to adopt. The key components the Consortium is working on are:
- the required summative exams;
- optional formative, or benchmark, exams; and
- a variety of tools, processes and practices that teachers may use in planning and implementing informal, ongoing assessment. This will assist teachers in understanding what students are and are not learning on a daily basis so they can adjust instruction accordingly.
The next steps the consortium plans to take include:
- Winter 2010:
- Post user-friendly crosswalk document for CCSS (Common Core) mathematical standards. Assist teachers in comparing new CCSS to current Oregon standards, allowing determination of grade-level movement of content
- Create “packets” with handouts and powerpoints that can be used with district staff in math standards awareness campaign
- Spring-Summer 2010:
- Create statewide implementation team to draft comprehensive implementation blueprint
- Re-examine state policies to ensure alignment with Diploma requirements
For more information about the SMARTER Balanced Consortium, go to: http://www.k12.wa.us/smarter/default.aspx
Do you have questions or comments about the plans for the new assessment system?
When I posted an interview with former Western Oregon University professor, Bob Turner, about Oregon students’ college preparedness, I received a question about student work experience and partnerships between schools and local businesses. I didn’t have a simple answer – and still don’t – but, I have done some digging on Oregon’s policies.
The Oregonian recently published an article about a hands-on program for high school counselors to learn about trade apprenticeships so that they can better share accurate information with the students they serve. Given this recent article, I felt it was an appropriate time to revisit the issue of career preparation in our schools.
According to the Oregonian article: “Many students don’t consider a career in a trade because they’re only told about college, said John Nelsen, who organized this first Union Apprenticeship Teacher’s Workshop.”
It may be true that a lot of students are not informed of their options in the trades. A little research also indicates that there is great variance across the state in terms of what career-related information students receive. (more…)
A September 27, 2010 headline in the Denver Post reads: “Jeffco Schools to Increase some Teachers’ Pay to more than $100,000” http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16159862. The article goes on to explain that the district has received a federal grant to study how peer support, professional development, and additional pay affect student achievement in high poverty schools. That study will include both a control group (without increased pay) and a full implementation group, certainly a necessary and important follow up to the Vanderbilt study released last week.
The most interesting part of the article, though, is the response by readers. Many of them use very strong language to decry the salaries: “Those are absolutely obscene salaries (plus lavish benefits) for public school teachers to be making …. There are plenty of highly educated long-timers who are terrible teachers. Looks like property taxes will continue going up!” “How about hiring more teachers instead this is a real waste of tax payers money….or keeping some of those recently closed schools open?”
Or this “conversation” between a teacher: “I am a high school science teacher – all who think it is an “easy” profession need to try it for a week. Most of you would run back to your little 8-5 by Wednesday- if not sooner.” And the non-teacher’s response: “Good bet you’ve never tried any jobs other than teaching. You’re still just getting used to working again after your three-month vacation.”
(On the other hand, the comments also included some applause for at least trying something different – as long as the NEA was not involved).
These responses remind us how many myths surround schools and how these myths make it difficult it for schools to try new ideas. For example, the notion of “obscene salaries” grows out of a conviction that people become teachers because they love children and that money will corrupt that value. (more…)