College and career readiness

Focus on the “BE” before the “DO”

Guest post by Jay R. Dostal

Last year, my leadership team held a two-day retreat to focus on moving from our current school building into the new one we were building at the time. As you might imagine, moving a 230,000 square foot building, in addition to implementing a new educational model centered on college, career, and life readiness, can be quite stressful and taxing. Many details needed to be coordinated, including developing a communication plan, updating multiple forms with the new address, purchasing new furniture, and much more. My team and I worked diligently to put together a list of things that we needed to get done during our two-day hiatus away from the building, and we had every intention of getting them completed before the second semester started. Then the retreat happened. (more…)

Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

ESSA Toolkit

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires your engagement as an education stakeholder as states develop legislation to meet the law’s requirements. Since many legislators have limited background in education, it is important that you as a school leader ensure your voice is heard. The ESSA Toolkit for Principals empowers you to advocate on behalf of your school and students and provides you with the necessary tools. (more…)

Career Academies: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships

Guest post by Darrin M. Peppard

Steve, a veteran math teacher, asked, “Why do we do our learning walks in classrooms that don’t match with our own content area?” With a confused look, I responded, “Because you don’t really teach content, Steve, you teach kids, and kids need transferable skills more than they need content.” (more…)

Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

National Principals Month

We are already into the third week of National Principals Month and time is flying by. Twenty states have already helped honor principals by passing their own resolutions formally recognizing National Principals Month. NASSP wants to thank the governors, legislators, and NASSP members in those states who helped make these resolutions possible. (more…)

Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

Inside the Beltway

What’s going on in Washington?

On August 31, the U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations on the supplement, not supplant provisions of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), recently revised by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Public comments will be accepted until November 7, and the final regulations are expected to be issued before President Obama ends his term in office in January 2017. (more…)

Advocacy Update

Inside the Beltway

What’s going on in Washington?

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) made several important announcements this week concerning implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). On February 2, Acting Secretary of Education John King sent a follow-up letter to chief state school officers concerning the president’s Testing Action Plan, released in October. In the letter, King updated the plan to align with the requirements of ESSA and clarify that, through ESSA, states will receive funds that can be used to help develop and improve their assessment systems. (more…)

Don’t Think Outside the Box—Make a New Box

Guest post by Janice Case, a consultant, certified trainer, and educator with more than 20 years’ experience in public and private school education.

For school leaders and counselors, implementing the Common Core State Standards is not about thinking outside the box. It is about transforming the box itself (NASSP, NAESP, College Summit, Achieve, 2013). Now, more than ever, we’re charged with ensuring that all students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school. So what does it take, exactly, to create a graduating class that is 100 percent college and career ready? The answer: implementing a college-going culture. (more…)

Reaching All Students Through Career and Technical Education

A rigorous career and technical education (CTE) program and high expectations for all students guide the success of Worcester (MA) Technical High School, led by NASSP National High School Principal of the Year Sheila Harrity.

Worcester Tech, which was also named a MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School in 2011, has 1,400 students in 24 technical programs within four small learning communities. Once the lowest-performing high school in the city and the poorest performing vocational school in the state, the students are graduating at high levels and performing well on state assessments, and the achievement gap has decreased significantly for all student subgroups. (more…)

School Showcase Feature: Laconia High School

Laconia High School is implementing Performance Based Assessments (PBAs) that tie content learning directly to students’ college and career aspirations. This is done using a vertical design that consistently integrates students’ voices and choices into curriculum delivery throughout their four-year educational careers. In this way, we are working to ensure students graduate from our educational community with the skills needed to move toward their chosen goals.

Laconia High School has been part of the CCSR i3 Network for four years. Our original direction involved the development and implementation of Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs). The philosophy behind ELOs seemed to work well for those students who had the discipline to stick with the work they designed and the structured due dates that came with it. In the last two years, we have worked to integrate that philosophy into our overall four-year program so that students developed the desire to “own” their education. This has resulted in greater student engagement. Students have an increased awareness of the relevance of what they are learning, they are more aware of how their education can be connected to the future they want to have, and they are regularly asked to assess how their current performance is moving them toward or away from the goals they have set.

In the freshman year, all students participate in essays designed to get them to compare and contrast their perceived behavior and motivations with those of characters in the novels they are reading. The task is specifically designed to help students understand personal choice and the logical consequences that occur when these choices are made. During this year, students also participate in CareerCruising and discuss how motivation and choices determine opportunity. These assessments happen in our freshmen Algebra and English classes.

During sophomore year, students engage in the “What is Right for Me” PBA in the social studies program. This multi-week effort requires students to review their educational choices and develop their own college and career plan. Through research and discussion, they design their direction in a real-world way and formally present their projects in class.

As students enter their junior year, they, their parents, and their guidance counselors engage in “The Junior Review.” This is a comprehensive review of a student’s performance and choices he or she has made thus far in high school. It includes an honest discussion of the direction the student’s efforts are moving him or her in relation to the goals he or she set the previous year. In American Studies, our junior-level humanities program, students develop 12 essays that represent their understanding of what it means to be an American. This PBA requires all juniors to present a position paper on how they see themselves as citizens of the United States based on their work in understanding the development of our nation and its interaction with other nations.

We are currently developing a pilot for all seniors that requires them to complete an independent study that engages them in formally planning their post-graduation plans. This PBA, called “Where I am Going Next,” ensures seniors have a plan they understand and own for the day after they walk across the stage with their diploma.

It is exciting to see students engage in their own aspirations through real research and formal presentation. We look forward to sharing our vision with others in the upcoming months.

Laconia High School will be one of 22 schools featured at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase at Ignite ’14. The Woodbridge team will be presenting High School Redesign Through the Lenses of PBAs and Career Pathways on Thursday, February 6th.