National Program Recognizing Outstanding and Equitable High Schools Announces its First Accolades

Schools of Opportunity” Spotlights 17 Schools in New York
and Colorado and will expand from coast to coast in 2016

 

Contacts: 
Jamie Horwitz, (202) 549-4921, jhdcpr@starpower.net
Peter Caughey, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-4007, caughey@colorado.edu
Kevin Welner, 303-492-8370, kevin.welner@colorado.edu
Carol Burris, 516-993-2141, burriscarol@gmail.com

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/ke6t93t

 

Boulder, CO (May 7, 2015) – The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado announced today that 17 high schools in New York and Colorado are the first to receive the “School of Opportunity” designation. These outstanding schools demonstrated a range of practices that ensured that all students had rich opportunities to succeed. All put students, not test scores, first.

The Schools of Opportunity project, funded by the Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation, highlights excellent practices designed to expand student opportunity and access to academic success. The program was piloted in just two states in the 2014-2015 school year: Colorado and New York. Next school year, the project will include high schools nationwide.

The project is jointly led by Professor Kevin Welner of the CU-Boulder School of Education, who directs the NEPC, and Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, NY. Burris was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Burris, whose school has been ranked consistently high on lists of the nation’s top schools, nevertheless is critical of common ratings programs.

“Current ratings programs aimed at identifying the nation’s best high schools include many high-quality schools,” she said. “But the approach they use tends to reward schools that are affluent or those that enroll a selective group of students. It is time we recognize schools that do outstanding work with a wider range of students.”

“The schools we’re recognizing with this new project are all places you would delight in having your own children attend,” Welner added.

“We hope,” he said, “that this project will help move the nation past the constraining and wrongheaded discussion of school quality that focuses on ‘Problems, Statistics and Labels.’ Students and educators, as well as parents and researchers who spend time on our high schools, know that quality schooling comes from excellent practices.”

Recognized schools received either a Gold or Silver designation. The Gold “Schools of Opportunity” in 2015 are, in alphabetical order:

  • Centaurus High School, Lafayette, Colorado
  • Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, Bronx, New York
  • Grand Valley High School, Garfield, Colorado
  • Jefferson County Open High School, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Malverne High School, Malverne, New York

The 12 high schools that earned Silver Schools of Opportunity designation in 2015 are:

  • Center High School, Center, Colorado
  • Charles D'Amico High School, Albion, New York
  • Durango High School, Durango, Colorado
  • Eastridge High School, Rochester, New York
  • Elwood – John H. Glenn High School, Elwood, New York
  • Fox Lane High School, Bedford, New York
  • Long Beach High School, Long Beach, New York
  • Long View High School, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Mapleton Early College High School, Thornton, Colorado
  • Harrison High School, Harrison, New York
  • Sleepy Hollow High School, Sleepy Hollow, New York
  • Sunset Park High School, Brooklyn, New York

These schools range in student-body size and include schools in rural, urban and suburban settings. They include traditional high schools as well as small schools that students choose to attend and that may be outside their neighborhoods. (Short summaries of each school are included at the end of this release.)

The recognition of these 17 schools is based on 11 specific principles identified by experts in the 2013 Oxford University Press book, Closing the Opportunity Gap, which Welner edited along with Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter. Specific practices include effective student and faculty support systems, outreach to the community, health and psychological support, judicious and fair discipline policies, little or no tracking, and high-quality teacher induction and mentoring programs. A list and description of these recognition criteria are available on the project website.

In order to be recognized, school applications were required to go through four levels of screening, including rubric-based ratings by two evaluators. Evaluation teams also made in-person visits to the recognized “Gold” schools.

Burris and Welner stress that the opportunity gaps facing the nation’s children arise from poverty, racism and other societal ills much more than from anything taking place in schools. But schools are nonetheless important, and they can make a real difference in children’s lives.

“When schools and communities focus their resources and efforts on closing opportunity gaps, they should be recognized, supported and applauded,” Burris said. “They should also serve as models for those who wish to engage in true school improvement.”

For more information please visit Schools of Opportunity.

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Descriptions of the recognized schools:

Gold, Colorado:

  • Centaurus High School, Lafayette, Colorado
    Creating a school community that is welcoming and caring, as well as academically challenging and supportive, requires a broad package of policies and practices. Centaurus focuses in particular on strong supports for entering ninth graders, embracing them with a thoughtful set of social and academic supports, hands-on learning, and extracurricular opportunities.

  • Grand Valley High School, Garfield, Colorado
    Integrating high expectations, challenging curriculum, universal access, and strong supports, the school begins with an AP-for-all approach. The school also features a strong system of teacher development, collaboration and leadership, along with a focus on instruction and thoughtfully integrating the school’s response-to-intervention protocol and advisory system.

  • Jefferson County Open High School, Lakewood, Colorado
    Embracing an educational philosophy rooted in the belief that students are inherently curious and want to learn, educators follow the lead of each student, facilitating opportunities for students to discover, explore, and master their interests and their passions. In doing so, the school has provided a vibrant and viable alternative to conventional schooling—an alternative that is particularly stark in our age of standards- and test-based accountability policies.

Silver, Colorado:

  • Center High School, Center, Colorado
    Serving a rural and economically impoverished community, the district recognized that opportunities to learn for their students depended on more than conventional academic supports. Student needs are thus addressed through extra learning time and enrichment opportunities after school and during the summer, as well as during the school day; through a strong focus on healthy choices, supportive interactions, and anti-bullying programs; through support staff such as a homeless coordinator, a nurse, and counselors; and through partnerships with links to community health organizations.

  • Durango High School, Durango, Colorado
    A collaborative learning environment for staff is combined with a Small Learning Communities structure for teaching. Interdisciplinary teams of teachers meet regularly to discuss how to engage all students in the learning outcomes their departments have agreed upon. The school’s SLCs work closely with instructional coaches from Expeditionary Learning (EL), International Baccalaureate (IB) and then develop Critical Friends groups to analyze each other’s lessons and instructional strategies.

  • Long View High School, Lakewood, Colorado
    Long View High School serves an “alternative school” role, in that the school is sought out by students struggling with life or academics, but the school’s approach is one of enrichment, not salvage. It engages the students with a curriculum that is rigorous, relevant, varied, and enjoyable. The school’s mission is to provide a classroom-based, personalized education that takes the long view of each student’s future, stressing learning over simple credit recovery.

  • Mapleton Early College High School, Thornton, Colorado
    Focusing on authentic learning through internships and early college, the school has created a healthy school culture and learning environment, built around project-based, individualized, authentic learning, grounded in the community.

Gold, New York:

  • Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, Bronx, New York
    Located in the poorest congressional district in the United States, this New York City community high school breaks the mold in order to provide its students with outstanding opportunities to help them succeed. Supports to keep students healthy; alternative, authentic assessments to help them show what they know, and the wise use of technology are three of the many reasons this school earned a Gold.

  • Malverne High School, Malverne, New York
    Malverne High School in the village of Malverne, New York has a culture that encourages students to engage in rigorous coursework while maintaining a “success for all students” philosophy that is built around expanding learning opportunities well outside the traditional school day. Advanced Placement course enrollment is reflective of school demographics—over 60% of AP enrollment is from minority groups, with 50% being African-American students.

Silver, New York:

  • Charles D'Amico High School, Albion, New York
    The Charles D’Amico High School is a rural school that works to ensure that all students stay connected.  Its ‘Community As School’ program gives a fresh start to students at risk of dropping out.

  • Eastridge High School, Rochester, New York
    Over half of all Eastridge students are economically disadvantaged. Determined that financial restraints should not get in the way of students taking college-level courses, the district decided that they would foot the bill. All International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement exams are paid for by the district.

  • Elwood – John H. Glenn High School, Elwood, New York
    This high school prides itself in providing strong social and emotional support for students while maintaining high expectations for academic achievement. In the face of tragedy it responded to its students and families in remarkable ways.

  • Fox Lane High School, Bedford, New York
    Fox Lane High School is proud of its comprehensive program to support its English Language Learners, who come from all parts of the world. The Fox Lane philosophy is that the first language is a strength to build on, not a weakness to be overcome.

  • Long Beach High School, Long Beach, New York
    Long Beach High School narrowed the opportunity gap between affluent and disadvantaged peer through detracking. Their open enrollment policy for AP and IB courses, combined with detracked classes in Grades 9 and 10 allowed more students to partake in the best curriculum the school has to offer.

  • Harrison High School, Harrison, New York
    The work of securing a welcoming environment is never complete, but Harrison High School has accomplished much and is better for its efforts in this area of school campus life. One of the many ways that Harrison ensures opportunity is by making all students, including LGBT students, feel respected and safe.

  • Sleepy Hollow High School, Sleepy Hollow, New York
    Since 2000, any student who wants to take an honors or AP course at Sleepy Hollow High School will find the door wide open. Participation and performance rates have steadily increased over the past fifteen years—a testament to the success Sleepy Hollow has in challenging students and preparing them for higher education.

  • Sunset Park High School, Brooklyn, New York
    Ask any Sunset Park High School student where they will be when their last class ends, and they will tell you still at school. The school-community partnership of Sunset Park High School and Center for Family Life provides a diverse range of daily academic and enrichment afterschool activities implemented by professional social workers, artists and young adults from the community, in collaboration with Sunset Park High School teachers.

 

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.