The graduation rate at Rogers High School rose from 60% in 2010 to 82% in 2016. Principal Lori Wyborney intervenes to put many students into AP classes. Spokane’s educators have latched onto an idea that might strike others as counter-intuitive: They believe they can get more students to go to college — and stay there — by making high school harder.
Spokane has eliminated all unchallenging classes. College prep courses are now the default curriculum for all high school students, and the district has increased the number of A.P. courses it offers. Although students are required to take only 3 years each of lab science and math to earn a diploma, they are pushed to take 4 years of each — and most do. The students know their principal is serious about making them work harder.
“We’ve eliminated choices to the point where you really only have college-ready choices,” Wyborney said. The strategy stems from a finding of federal research that a high school’s “academic intensity” still counts more than anything else that it does to help its students go on to complete a bachelor’s degree.
In the class of 2016, 87% of graduates had taken 4 years of lab science, and nearly 90% had taken 4 years of
math. "The harder classes don’t just prepare students academically. They help students visualize themselves at college," Wyborney said. “For kids in poverty, more often than not, what they’re saying is, ‘I’m not a good student,’ ” she said. “What we have to do is convince them, ‘Well, actually, you are.’ ”
She told students the statistics for their school’s ZIP code — a nearly 30% poverty rate and a 17% unemployment rate — and explained to students how a good education can help break the cycle of poverty. She convinces them college is an option, regardless of their family’s income.
Studies have found that students who pass an A.P. exam do better in college...In Spokane, the district pays the test fees for students who can’t afford them. Wyborney says there are benefits even if a student fails an A.P. exam: They learn the skills they need to succeed in college, such as note-taking, time management and how to form study groups. “For us, it’s more about the skill-building than it is about the content,” Wyborney said.
Spokane is updating its entire K-12 curriculum to teach those kinds of skills. Students in its early grades will not only do more research and weekly writing, but they’ll also start to learn good studying, note-taking and organizing strategies in fourth grade.
Wyborney met with her administrative team and handed out graduation-rate statistics from around the district. Although Rogers had hit a high of 82% in 2016, her enthusiasm was restrained. “Just stats to look at, my little love bugs,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out 18% of the kids.” In addition, Rogers still has a low number of graduates who go on to college; however that rate went from 43% in 2011 to 53% in 2015 under Principal Wyborney.
Spokane is an economically diverse city of roughly 200,000 people. Rogers High is in the city’s poorest neighborhood. About 78% of its 1,500 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, according to state data.
("A School Where Raising the Bar Lifts Hope," by Sarah Butrymowicz, The New York Times, March 9, 2017)
Bridges Elementary School in Brooklyn
(New York City Schools)
The Bridges Elementary School has adopted a dog that is part of a program in New York City schools, called Mutt-i-grees.
Rescue animals are adopted by 42 New York City schools, which live with a school administrator, and during the day they are embedded into school life. The dogs do everything from curbing conflict, to motivating students, to offering puppy love. They can calm an angry child, and help students act better towards one another.
The dogs teach kids about responsibility, empathy, and making connections. Across New York City, 95% of participating educators say the canines have reduced emotional distress among students. The dogs Shine and Brightly possess the qualities inherent in the best social workers: warmth and unconditional love.
Play time with the dogs is used as an incentive for good behavior.
"We have some really challenging behaviors at our school, as every school does, and seeing certain students who now have individualized behavior plans, where if they meet certain goals each day, they get to come and see me and spend time with the dog, has brought a real sense of purpose to those students' days in which they spend the morning trying to earn time with the dog; and then after they spend time with the dog, they are calm and positive for the rest of the day," Principal Kevyn Bowles said.
The curriculum was developed by Yale University and New York's North Shore Animal League. The program was expanded to 42 New York City schools this year.
A preliminary evaluation of the program conducted by Yale University reveals that 90% of participating educators reported improved student behavior. Seventy-nine percent said the dogs increased student interest in school, and researchers are hopeful this success might one day be reflected in academic achievement.
Shine greets students in the morning, attends school assemblies, and serves as a reading buddy. She will just snuggle up next to you on the carpet in the classroom, and you could read to her for hours. So, they each bring a little different personality to the mix." (How "comfort dogs" are improving behavior in New York City classrooms, CBS News, January 24, 2018)
Breaux Bridge, K-12
A school with no textbooks and no homework is sending students to top tier schools. They have 100% graduates who get into college.
A no frill school in a low-income area. There are teachers, but no text books, no homework, and no specific class schedule. They have no sports, no homecoming, and no prom. Classmates from K to high school help each other. Students help tutor each other, and encourage each other to learn. They give hope and celebrate each other’s success.
“Because you are with all these other people who are always striving towards greatness, just like you are, it’s like you have no choice but to conform to it,” said one student. “It’s not about being smart. It’s about working hard,” said one of the mothers.
(source: “Lesson in Success,” Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, CBS News, December 2017)