A recent article in the Eagle-Tribune discusses the dropout rate in Haverhill, Massachusetts and plans to reduce the number of students choosing to leave Haverhill High School before graduation.
"With a 4.4 percent dropout rate at Haverhill High School, which is more than double the state average of 1.9 percent, Haverhill's school are about to take new steps to help children before they reach high school."
"'While we remain concerned about the dropout rate, we believe that it is time to take a different and more pro-active approach to this and many other issues that we face in our schools today,' [Jared] Fulgoni [,assistant superintendent of schools,] said."
"At Thursday's [Haverhill] School Committee meeting, Fulgoni outlined some of the steps to retain more students and reduce the dropout rate. He said those ideas stem from a one week educational seminar he attended this summer at Harvard University, and research Harvard conducted."
Sep 21, 2017
An Edutopia article last year discussed how the Walter Bracken STEAM Academy Elementary School, a Title 1 magnet school in urban Las Vegas, Nevada, created a culture of reading by introducing "Series Reading" across all grade levels. What was the result?
– By fifth grade, students are two and a half years above grade level on the STAR Reading Assessment.
– Instead of talking about the latest TV shows, students excitedly discuss the books they read.
– Students are often caught reading books under their desks during other lessons.
A recent Education Dive article discusses how school libraries can increase interest and use by creating "makerspaces" that encourage hands-on, creative work.
"Not long ago the New Milford High School library in New Jersey was pretty traditional. It had tall stacks of books and old wooden tables that didn’t move easily. It was underutilized. Students weren’t drawn to it and, to a large extent, neither were teachers.
"Today, it’s a different story. Students stop by the library during their lunch period and come before and after school. Teachers send students down to work on projects during class time or bring their entire classes. With far more people in and out of the library throughout the day, circulation is way up."
“'Makerspaces are about creating a maker culture,' [the New Milford High School librarian Laura] Fleming said. 'It’s a mindset. It’s a toolbox at your disposal for reaching kids. That can be done in any space and on any budget.'”
A recent article in Education Week discusses how school districts investing in principals before and during their tenure gave them a better chance to succeed and provided districts with a pipeline of effective school leaders.
"Leading a school to better teaching and learning requires a great principal. Unfortunately, finding and training new principals in effective school leadership has been a long-standing challenge for many districts. So it’s good news for districts and states focused on school improvement that six large, urban school districts have shown it is possible – and not expensive – to build principal pipelines that have a mission to produce a steady supply of effective school leaders."
An analysis found that to have effective "principal pipelines" school districts must have rigorous job standards, strong preservice training, selective hiring, and sound on-the-job support and evaluation for novice principals.
The article concluded, "A great teacher can electrify a classroom. A team of great teachers led by a great principal can electrify a whole school."
A recent article in The Eagle-Tribune discussed a summer program where Haverhill teachers participated in an AP course "Summer Institute."
"Five teachers from Haverhill High School ... spent the last few days at a weeklong program at Bridgewater State University, where they spent time with instructors and hundreds of fellow teachers from various states and foreign countries, honing their teaching skills specifically for Advanced Placement courses.
"The Summer Institute program is put on each year by Mass Insight Education, a national nonprofit that aims to improve school systems and student achievement through district restructuring and academic rigor. It runs two sessions, one week long each, and this year will see a total of 520 participants from 39 states and 10 foreign countries. "
The article continued, "Teaching an AP course requires different skills from teachers than an average high school course. Darshan Thakkar, the chief academic officer for Haverhill schools, said teachers need to impart more than the course material — they must teach students to synthesize information from various sources, then analyze that information and articulate their own argument about that information. "
An article by eSchool News discusses the importance of writing to improve student learning in all disciplines, not just to prove students are learning.
"Simply put, writing is our critical thinking made visible.
"Through the process of writing, writers put nascent thoughts into comprehensible language for others to read. In their pursuit of self-expression, they often find themselves challenged to find new words or motivated to develop academic vocabulary.
"Because it is a critical thinking process, writing isn’t merely an act of jotting down what you have in your head. Once the initial thoughts in your head start to flow, you naturally begin iterating on them."
School districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, "appropriately ambitious" progress, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in March, National Public Radio reported. The 8-0 decision sets a higher standard for how public schools must educate students with disabilities.
The decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District may have implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States and the local school districts that must provide a free and appropriate public education. The unanimous opinion held that the meaning of "appropriate" under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act goes further than what the lower courts had held.
The case centered on a child with autism and attention deficit disorder, Endrew F., whose parents removed him from public school in fifth grade. He went on to make better progress in a private school. His parents argued that the individualized education plan provided by the public school was not adequate, and they sued to compel the school district to pay his private school tuition.
Read the United States Supreme Court Opinion (Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District)
Jun 15, 2017
The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network at Clemson University offers a free webcast, Solutions to the Dropout Crisis. The free program does not require any registration, and it airs the second Tuesday of every month at 3:30 PM EST. The show covers a variety of topics related to dropout prevention. As of the date of this post, there are 87 past episodes available for viewing on demand. The most recent episode discusses student engagement.
A June 3, 2017, editorial in the Boston Globe mentions the situation with the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School.
"Back in 2006, in its pre-charter existence, the K-5 school was underperforming and facing a possible state takeover. The approach to fixing those problems was to transform the school into an automatically unionized Horace Mann charter, thereby giving it more latitude to set its own course. By 2013, Silver Hill had made enough progress to win Level 1 status. That is, a spot in the state’s top school tier."
The following opinion piece recently published in the New York Times discusses the importance of principals in our schools. It seems obvious, but, as the article points out, policymakers focus on so many other aspects to fix broken schools, such as curriculum, teachers, standardized testing, class size, charter schools, and even buildings. There is much more talk about holding teachers accountable than principals. Principals can make a big difference in schools. They are the leaders who set the tone for the entire building.
"To be clear, teachers matter enormously. Rigorous research has found that high-performing teachers don’t only help their students do better on the standardized tests everyone loves to hate; their students also graduate from college at a higher rate and earn more money as adults.
"Great teachers, quite simply, change lives. On the other end of the spectrum, struggling teachers do not get enough support, and it’s too hard to fire those who fail to improve.
"Principals are so important because they offer one of the most effective means to improve teaching."