My addiction to High School Reform began many years ago when my then principal, Mr. Morris Busby, purchased the SRN study kit. Nowadays you can find thousands of resources focused on High School Reform from around the world. But most include at least one of the following:
- Data driven
- Small schools (or school within schools) with around 200 students
- Establishment and regular integration of stakeholders
My first large scale high school reform project was the creation of a Freshman Academy which was the vision of my current principal. After a field trip to Zachary Freshman Academy, a group of us knew this was for our school. We started planning immediately, literally on the car ride back home. Several months of planning passed including data analysis, research, and too many meetings to count. Though some key planned elements weren’t able to be integrated, the first two years were filled with success:
- 82% promotion rate to 10th grade (baseline)
- 92% promotion rate to 10th grade
- 93% promotion rate to 10th grade
My key involvement ended at this time. Unfortunately numerous elements changed school-wide and items were still not integrated during the third year, and we were back to where we started data wise (actually worse). Three constants still remain dedicated teachers, 1:1 technology integration, and the belief that a fully integrated academy would work. Hopefully when our first Freshman Academy students graduated next year, we will be able to revisit the original plan and fully implement. The proof is in the numbers;)
What does the Freshman Academy need? Honestly just some of the basic components: location back on their own wing, class size around 22, scheduling where core teachers share same students (two “teams”), and HEAT, Help Eliminate Academic Tardies (for students not completing work).
So how am I currently feeding my reform addiction? Well, I’m a computer education teacher. If you were currently looking for a US public high school without internet access, it might be a case for Sherlock Holmes. Yet in 1994 only 35 percent of all public school had internet access. Likewise elearning is starting to become a staple in higher education facilities. How long before the same is true in high schools around the world?
Well, that time is now for Minden High School. We are currently creating an online academy. It is set up as a “school within a school” so we never plan to enroll over around 200, but are starting slow with ten students. Stay turn for a walk through on this experience! Do you have any experience with elearning? If so, what tips do you have?