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Knowledge From the Field

Rethinking High School: Five Profiles of Innovative Models for Student Success

Published: February 2005

Publisher(s): Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Author(s): Huebner, Tracy; Grace Calisi Corbett

Funder(s): Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Related Organization(s): WestEd

View Report (56 pages; 967KB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Low-performing Schools

Abstract: Due to declining high school graduation rates, funders ranging from the federal government to private foundations have been focusing efforts on creating smaller, more personalized high schools. Studies have shown that students entering high school are more likely to succeed in these smaller environments that keep them motivated academically and effectively prepare them for college, work, and citizenship. This report examines the progress that has been made at five small schools across the U.S. that are representative of a growing network of more focused, academically rigorous high schools being developed to help students succeed in both high school and college.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+ Students are highly engaged in learning and students at all five sites are achieving academic success.

+ The schools are highly sought after by students of all abilities; many of the students who enroll at these five sites enter performing below grade level.

= 66 percent of all students entering high school nationwide will earn their diploma. Students from historically underserved groups—black and Hispanic—have slightly more than a 50% chance of graduating from high school.

= Only 20 percent of black students and 16 percent of Hispanic students are considered college-ready.

= The five schools serve ethnically and socio-economically diverse students.

= Further study is recommended to: understand what key conditions in these five schools are helping students to achieve academically and how these conditions differ from traditional high schools, and to examine the role the district plays in supporting these schools over time.

= Additional research is needed to learn: if these schools impact the district’s work with its other schools; the roles of these five schools’ leaders and how they manage to sustain efforts over time both in their schools and across schools in their networks; and the various curricular strategies and how they impact school climate, teacher satisfaction, and student achievement. Additional research is needed to track students from these five schools who are taking college classes to determine how well prepared they are for college.

Geographic Focus : Dayton, OH; San Diego, CA; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO

Subjects/Keywords : Low-performing schools; college prep; college-ready; career-ready; underserved population; school reform

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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