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Last month, the U.S. Department of Education’s town meeting focused on how communities across the nation can work to ensure that all high school students possess the academic and technical skills necessary to transition successfully to college and enter meaningful careers.

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Gene Hickok hosted the panel which featured Carol D’Amico, U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Gloria Pelzer, principal of Germantown High School in Philadelphia, Pa., Jesse Register, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Jim Connell, president and co-founder of the Institute of Research and Reform in Education.

During the town meeting, Under Secretary Hickok asked the panelists to discuss challenges currently facing America’s high schools and successful methods for reforming high schools which are now in use.

Town Meeting Highlights Successful Kansas City, Kan. Model


In partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Institute of Research and Reform in Education began working with the Kansas City, Kan. school district in 1996. The partnership created a model called First Things First (FTF), which is now operating in all 48 of the district schools. Supported by an $11 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, FTF will expand over the next five years to a second urban district and six other secondary schools.

The model provides schools and school districts with a clear, effective strategy for comprehensive reform. Its aim is to improve academic outcomes for all students, including those with histories of academic failure. The model’s key components include: Lower student-adult ratios of 15 to 1 or fewer; small learning communities; a clear definition of what students will know and be able to do by the time they leave high school; and enriched and diverse opportunities for students to learn perform and be recognized.

For more information visit the Institute of Research and Reform in Education Web site.


Information on the high school forum, including a complete webcast of the presentation is available on the of U.S. Department of Education Web site.

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