THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

 

TO:

EMSC-VESID Committee

FROM:

James A. Kadamus

SUBJECT:

New York State High School Initiative

DATE:

September 2, 2005

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

 

Does the Board of Regents agree that the five identified strategies should serve as the foundation of the New York State High School Initiative?

 

Reason(s) for Consideration

 

Review of policy.
         

Proposed Handling

 

This question will come before the EMSC-VESID Committee on September 8, 2005.

 

Procedural History

 

Not applicable.

 

Background Information

 

In December 2004, the Committee received an analysis of the Regents exam performance and educational outcomes of students who first entered grade 9 in the 2000-01 school year.  The data showed that these students were concentrated in 136 high schools in 12 school districts and suggested the need for intervention.  In January and February, we proposed three approaches that build upon current Regents strategies.  One of the strategies is to expand and strengthen our statewide initiative with the high schools that have the lowest graduation rates and the highest proportions of students taking three or fewer Regents exams in four years by bringing the 12 school districts together to evaluate and implement strategies to improve graduation rates and performance on Regents exams.

 

The topic of high schools is being discussed at the national and international levels.  Department staff has participated in national and regional high school summits sponsored by the U. S. Department of Education and other organizations and the Department has been invited to participate in a high school reinvention symposium this fall. 

 

          Our recent efforts have focused on building the capacity of the 12 school districts and 136 high schools to increase student high school completion.  To build on what we have accomplished with these high schools, Department staff propose undertaking the following five strategies that will serve as the foundation of the New York State High School Initiative:

 

1.               Build a community of practice in high schools across New York State.

2.               Set a clear agenda for the community of practice to work on.

3.               Make sure every high school is safe from violence and has a school climate that supports attendance and learning every school day.

4.               Develop strong high school principals and teacher leaders.

5.               Broadly engage citizens, parents and students in a statewide discussion about the purpose of high school and how to ensure excellence.

 

Recommendation

 

The Board of Regents should review the attached report and indicate whether it concurs with the five proposed strategies for the New York State High School Initiative.

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

To be determined.

 

Attachment


New York State High School Initiative

 

Historical Context

 

In December 2004, the Committee received an analysis of the Regents exam performance and educational outcomes of students who first entered grade 9 in the 2000-01 school year.  It showed a disturbing picture of many students who entered high school unprepared to do high school-level work, do not pass their courses and earn fewer than the 22 local high school credits they need for graduation in four years.  Further, the data showed that these students were concentrated originally in 136 high schools in 12 school districts and represented about 22 percent of the Stateís high school enrollment.  In January and February, the Regents identified high school completion as a priority.  The goal was to expand and strengthen our statewide initiative with the high schools that have the lowest graduation rates by bringing the 12 school districts together to evaluate and implement strategies to improve graduation rates and performance on Regents exams. 

 

          The high school completion approach is intended to help students in academic difficulty and to help educators in schools with low graduation rates that work with these students to devise and implement strategies that work.

 

The following report provides an update on our high school completion initiative and activities at the national and international levels relating to trends in high schools of the future, and proposes five strategies that would be the foundation of the New York State High School Initiative.

 

Update on High School Completion Initiative

 

The State Education Departmentís (SED) high school completion initiative includes several strategies focused on identifying students in academic difficulty and ensuring they get adequate help. This initiative includes bringing together schools that have the lowest graduation rates and the highest proportions of students taking three or fewer Regents exams in four years. Through a series of ďDestination DiplomaĒ forums, SEDís goal is to create a community of professional practice among school district teams, along with State and regional technical assistance providers and professional organizations that have been struggling with these issues. In May, the Regents received a report on the first Destination Diploma forums held in March in Albany and in May in New York City.  On May 25, a PBS broadcast of High School Completion Strategies That Work examined three of the high schools involved in the May Destination Diploma meeting.

 

The Department is concentrating on high school completion and will increase the number of schools it monitors that have a significant problem in this area.  This effort focuses on the math, reading and writing abilities of students before and upon entry to ninth grade, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and other populations of students that have fallen behind and are at risk of not graduating.  A Destination Diploma forum will be scheduled in fall 2005 and co-hosted by SED and the University of Albanyís School of Education.  It will highlight adolescent literacy strategies and the establishment of linkages between schools and districts and colleges and universities.

 

What Are Other States/National Groups Saying and Doing About High Schools?

 

The United States is competing with industrialized and emerging nations that educate their citizens to higher standards.  Our students must graduate high school able to reason and communicate mathematically, read analytically and critically, be knowledgeable of government and geography, and write clearly and coherently.  To meet the global challenge, education and training beyond high school are now necessary conditions for seeking a living wage and a good career.  Workers with the least education are likely to encounter further barriers to earning wage increases once on the job.  The following describes activities that have been undertaken at the national and international levels concerning high schools; SED staff participated in several of these events.

 

       In October 2003, the U.S. Department of Educationís (USDOE) Office of Vocational and Adult Education launched the Preparing Americanís Future High School Initiative by hosting a national leadership summit.  This summit brought education and policy leaders together to discuss innovative, effective methods for transforming high schools into top quality learning institutions.  A series of seven regional high school summits was held to help state teams create short- and long-term plans for strengthening outcomes for youth, improving high schools and meeting the vision of the No Child Left Behind Act.  The partners who assisted with the regional summits included the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Governorís Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Council of the Great City Schools.

 

       In December 2004, USDOE hosted the second national high school summit to build on the work its Office of Vocational and Adult Education had done with states since the fall 2003 summit and to showcase statesí efforts in the areas of accountability, improving student achievement at the secondary level, transitions from middle to high school and high school to postsecondary education and careers, and ensuring studentsí access to a rigorous, academic course of study.

 

       In 2004, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Education Alliance at Brown University released Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform, calling for collaborative leadership and professional learning communities; personalized school environments; and engaged student learning through focused curriculum, instruction and assessment.  

 

       With strong support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governorsí Association launched a Redesigning the American High School Initiative in February 2005, emphasizing 10-year performance goals for improving high school graduation and college readiness rates, a commitment to an aligned governance structure for PreK-16 education, and a communications plan to build and sustain public will for high school redesign.  CCSSO is also partnering with the International Center for Leadership in Education in a High School Reinvention Symposium later this year to which New York State is invited to participate.

 

       The Southern Regional Education Boardís High Schools That Work (HSTW) program is a school improvement initiative founded on the conviction that most students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies if school leaders create an environment that motivates students to make the effort to succeed.  It is the nationís first large-scale effort to engage state, district and school leaders in partnerships with teachers, students, parents and the community to raise student achievement in high school and the middle grades.  New York State joined the HSTW program as the 23rd member of the consortium of states, and we now have 13 official HSTW school sites in the State.  In addition, seven New York City high schools are using the HSTW model as an educational improvement strategy for their Small Learning Communities grant.  The Southern Regional Education Board has identified the following 10 strategies that states can implement to raise achievement and increase high school completion rates:

 

o      Initiate a transition program for middle grades to high school.

o      Require schools to develop an extra-help system aimed to assist students recover when they fail a grade or a course and to pass high-stakes exams.

o      Require every student to develop a five-year program of study that covers four years of high school and one year beyond.

o      Require high schools to provide students access to quality career/technical studies in high-demand, high-paying career fields.

o      Require every high school teacheróacademic, technical fine arts, and otheróto be trained in how to use content-literacy skills and study skills to help students become independent learners in the teacherís subject matter.

o      Require every high school to develop a formalized initiative for the transition from high school to college and careers.

o      Expand the use of technology in high school to improve achievement on core academic courses to help students recover when they fail a course and to meet standards on exit exams.

o      Examine state policies and their impact on improving graduation rates.

o      Develop a special emphasis on the lowest performing high schools in the state, including those that have the lowest achievement and the lowest high school completion rates.

o      Create a state leadership academy directed at developing a team of district and school leaders for the chronically low-performing, low-completion-rate high schools.

 

       Much of the national debate on high schools comes from a deep concern about the knowledge and skills of our high school graduates compared to those from other countries.  According to the 2004 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, Asian countries are setting the pace in math and science.  In Singapore, 44 percent of eighth graders scored at the most advanced level in math, as did 38 percent in Taiwan, while only 7 percent of students in the United States scored at this level.  Other assessments of American middle grade and high school students indicate that they spend relatively less time studying and their parents place less value on persistence and hard work than their Asian counterparts.  Research conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy in 2004 showed that 60 percent of the nationís top science students and 65 percent of the top math students are children of recent immigrants.  Countries around the world are pursuing education reform and view high quality education as a necessity in todayís global economy. 

 

What Should the New York State High School Initiative Look Like?

 

          Ten years ago, New York began a three-pronged education reform initiative to improve the quality of education for all students.  The goals of the initiative were to:  set learning standards for what all students should know and be able to do and to align State assessments with those standards; release data to the public on the progress of students in achieving the learning standards; and build the capacity of school districts and schools to help all students achieve the standards.  Since the education reform began, the Board of Regents has established 28 learning standards in seven subject areas; created tests at the elementary and intermediate levels to measure and monitor student progress in achieving the standards; revised graduation requirements requiring all students to take and pass 5 Regents examinations and earn 22 units of high school credit in order to graduate; required schools to provide academic intervention for students who fall behind; reformed teacher education to ensure teachers can teach their subjects well; held schools accountable for how students perform; and used data to make adjustments, as needed, in the learning standards and graduation requirements.

 

          Our recent efforts have focused on building the capacity of school districts and schools to increase student high school completion.  That focus has been on the original 136 high schools that have graduation rates lower than 70 percent.  How can we build on what we have accomplished with these high schools to raise achievement and improve high school completion rates?

 

          We propose five key strategies to be the foundation of the New York State High School Initiative.

 

1.               Build a community of practice in high schools across New York State.  That means bringing together practitioners, researchers, and policy makers with knowledge and experience in effective instructional practices to work collectively on solving educational problems.

 

       Continue work with the high schools already involved in our initiative. (Some of the original 136 high schools will not be opened in the 2005-06 school year because of closure or restructuring.)

       Expand the work already underway with the Stateís lowest performing high schools to other districts that are struggling with high school completion.  The total number of high schools in the high school completion initiative will represent 25 percent of the Stateís high school enrollment.  Most of the additional districts have been asking if they can participate in State-sponsored events on high school completion.  Our strategy is to include them as full participants in the high school initiative.

       Engage the District Superintendents, Big 5 city school districts, higher education institutions, and statewide educational organizations to make high school completion a top priority in their work. 

 

2.               Set a clear agenda for the community of practice to work on, including: 

 

       Helping students transition from middle school to high school.

       Providing effective extra help to students who are failing to recover.

       Expanding successful career and technical education models.

       Making sure teachers in all subject areas understand and apply content literacy skills to improve student learning.

       Developing better strategies for students with disabilities and English language learners to improve their achievement and complete high school.

       Developing better strategies for high school students to transition to college and careers.

 

3.               Make sure every high school is safe from violence and has a school climate that supports attendance and learning every school day.

 

       Develop and implement strategies and promote best practices to reduce violent incidents, gang activities and student suspensions.

       Promote best practices to improve student attendance.

       Develop a set of school climate indicators that can be used in high schools to evaluate whether schools are supporting student learning.

 

4.               Develop strong high school principals and teacher leaders.

 

       In collaboration with the District Superintendents, the Big 5 city school districts, higher education institutions, and statewide educational organizations, recruit building leaders, develop training for those leaders, and provide mentors and other supports.

       In collaboration with the New York State School Boards Association, provide school boards with strategies for improving high schools, with special programs designed for school boards with low-performing high schools.

       Implement strategies to build teacher leadership at the high school level; refine State policies to improve the leadership capacity of teachers.

 

5.               Broadly engage citizens, parents and students in a statewide discussion about the purpose of high school and how to ensure excellence.

 

       Use the media (print, television, and internet) to communicate with the public about the expectations for students and schools.

 

We are asking the Regents to discuss these five strategies and decide whether they should be the foundation for the New York State High School Initiative.