A Texas high school offers students support and an array of rigorous learning opportunities; student achievement scores show their efforts are paying off
Changing the Graduation Equation in a Texas District: A Conversation with Superintendent Daniel P. King
When Daniel P. King came to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in 2007, the district’s dropout rate was double the Texas state average. Now, it is half the state average.
How did the district do it? Dr. King and his colleagues created a College, Career and Technology Academy to steer dropouts--some as old as 25--back onto a path towards graduation. Not only do those students gain the skills and course credits they need to graduate, they also gain college credit along the way. (See a story about the Academy in our success stories section).
King recently spoke with us about the district’s remarkable success.
Public School Insights: What prompted you to create the College, Career & Technology Academy in the first place?
King: I was entering new into the district. I was moving from a small district to a large district, and I was overwhelmed when I saw that the district had a dropout rate that was twice the state average. The prior year had seen approximately 500 dropouts.
When I asked for an analysis of the 500 dropouts from the previous year I found that not only was there the typical freshman bubble (where students don't make it past the ninth grade, get stuck there and ultimately drop out), but there was [also] a relatively new phenomenon that I call the “twelfth grade bubble, ” [caused by] exit testing and rising standards.
In a small district I had dealt with [the dropout problem] very successfully, simply through ...
The Teacher Leaders Network just hosted a fascinating discussion on creativity in the classroom. A number of teachers involved in the discussion zeroed in on a matter that has again been looming large in debates about national standards: The tension between standardization and personalization. They wrote about the challenge of teaching basic information all students need to know "whether they find it creative or not" while engaging students' individual interests.
In other venues, similar discussions have drawn extremists like flies to honey. In the comments section of one top blog, for example, a privatization zealot credited the lack of common standards in private schools with those schools' alleged success: "No one argues that private schools are failing," Of course, we don't exactly have common measures for determining a private school's success or failure. And comparisons of private and public school NAEP scores show essentially no difference between private and public school performance. By why let data cloud ideology?
On the other side, the most immoderate critics of ...
Just in time to help education leaders who must decide how to spend the stimulus money, the Century Foundation is publishing a book on the impact of extra funding on student achievement in poor school districts. The book focuses on New Jersey's Abbott School Districts, which benefited from court-mandated efforts to close funding gaps between poor and wealthy communities.
The book's findings are, by the author's own admission, unsurprising. Citing "fairly dramatic" improvements in New Jersey test scores, the book concludes: ...
Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher reminds us today that school improvement does not necessarily require a death-match between high-profile "reformers" and the education "establishment."
Fisher tells the story of a once struggling elementary school that has dramatically raised the achievement of its overwhelmingly disadvantaged student body: "Broad Acres did this without Rhee's reform tactics: no young recruits from Teach for America, no cash for students who come to class, no linkage of teacher pay to test scores."
In other words, Broad Acres made great strides without any of the capital "R" reforms that dominate national discussion about education. Nor did they make their gains over the dead bodies of recalcitrant teachers, administrators or community members.
What did Broad Acres do? The school fostered on-going faculty collaboration, gave strugging students individual attention, offered engaging out-of-school enrichment activities, and supported students' physical and mental well-being.
This is not to argue that we should abandon important discussions about those capital "R" reforms, which focus mainly on incentives and ...
Just over a week ago, education blogger Corey Bower wondered whether a Barack Obama victory could narrow the achievement gap. Among the reasons he cites: Obama could be a role model for African American students; Obama could unsettle traditional stereotypes that reinforce low achievement among students of color.
One possibility Bower's thoughtful and cautious analysis does not consider: Schools have an opportunity to use Obama's victory as a teachable moment. Without descending to partisan politics, schools can capitalize on a new sense of civic empowerment among students who, rightly or wrongly, have long felt disenfranchised. In her recent Public School Insights interview, Harvard researcher Meira Levinson put it this way: ...
A growing chorus of voices is calling for federal education policies that support, rather than seek to prescribe, good practice. Groups like the Forum for Education and Democracy, the National Education Association and the "Broader, Bolder Approach" Coalition have published manifestos on the federal role in education. We at the Learning First Alliance joined that chorus on Monday, when we published our own statement on the federal role.
A common thread in these manifestos is that schools generally do their best work if given the capacity to succeed. Yesterday, I came across two vivid examples of this point. ...
Every couple of weeks, we give our readers an update on new stories we've published about public schools and school districts that are succeeding against tough odds. Here's our most recent batch:
- A Middle School Aims for a Blue Ribbon in Alabama's Black Belt, 10/3/2008
- An Elementary School is Taking Flight in Queens, 9/25/2008
- Partnership of Expertise and Knowledge is Empowering Teachers in a Virginia School District, 9/17/2008
- A Full-Service Elementary School is healing students and communities in New York, 9/9/2008 ...
Harvard professor and cultural critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. captured some 25 million viewers with his riveting PBS documentary series, African American Lives (WNET). Using genealogical research and DNA science, Gates traces the family history of 19 famous African Americans. What results is a rich and moving account of the African American experience.
Gates recently spoke with Public School Insights about the documentary and a remarkable idea it inspired in him: To use genealogy and DNA research to revolutionize the way we teach history and science to African American Students. Now, Gates is working with other educators to create an "ancestry-based curriculum" in K-12 schools. Many African American students know little about their ancestors. Given the chance to examine their own DNA and family histories, Gates argues, they are likely to become more engaged in their history and science classes. As they rescue their forebears from the anonymity imposed by slavery, students begin to understand their own place in the American story.
If the stories in African American Lives are any guide, they're in for an experience.
The Significance of African American Lives
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: Tell me about "African-American Lives" and its significance, in your view.
GATES: Wow, that's a big question. [Laughing] I got the idea in the middle of the night to do a series for public television that would combine genealogy and ancestry tracing through genetics. I've been fascinated with my own family tree since I was 10 years old - that's the year that my grandfather died. ...
Public School Insights recently caught up with Hugh Price, former President of the National Urban League and current chair of ASCD's Whole Child Initiative. In an expansive telephone interview, Price told us about his new book, Mobilizing the Community to Help Students Succeed, which describes how educators and communities can work together to improve student motivation in school, celebrate academic success, and foster stronger student achievement. ...
A few weeks ago, we were excited to learn that Crook County Middle School's Michael Geisen, a forester-turned-science teacher, was named by the Council of Chief State School Officers as the 2008 National Teacher of the Year. Selected for an innovative teaching approach that focuses on the individual needs of students, school/community connections, and collaboration with his colleagues, Geisen is now spending a year traveling nationally and internationally as a spokesperson for education.
He recently spoke with Public School Insights about a variety of topics including what he hopes to achieve as teacher of the year, his belief in the need to redefine "basic skills" and "intelligence," the support teachers receive (or should receive), and how he personalizes teaching to foster a life-long love of learning while increasing standardized test scores.
Listen to 5 minutes of highlights from our interview (or read through the transcript below): ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!