After speaking with hundreds of principals and teachers, the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education approved a plan to transform its high schools to create smaller schools-within-schools and implement a new focus on improving the reading levels of high school students who read well below their grade level.
Beginning in September 2004, Rhode Island school districts will identify students in grades 5, 9, and 11 who perform below grade level and must provide special assistance to help students become proficient in reading and writing. In reaction to the plan, Stefanie Sanford, a senior policy officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told Education Week that such attention to high schools is long overdue: “High schools have not really been on the agenda until just recently. There has been a sense that if you fix the early grades, then you’ve fixed the later grades. And intuitively that sounds like it makes sense. But what we’re finding is that you really do need to work hard at all levels.”
Other reforms adopted under Rhode Island’s plan include breaking down large high schools into schools-within-school and individual learning plans. Each child will also be assigned an adult who will follow that student through his or her high school career.
Read the Education Week article
|Los Angeles Superintendent to Tackle High School Test Scores
After enjoying success in raising test scores in the district’s elementary schools, Los Angeles school district superintendent Roy Romer has created a new initiative to boost secondary school test scores in a similar manner.
Under Romer’s initiative, “Putting Students First,” Los Angeles schools will be encouraged to establish small learning communities in order to personalize education for students. Romer’s plan also will reconfigure the school calendar of the district’s most overcrowded elementary and middle schools to increase the number of days students are in school from 163 to 180. The initiative is expected to cost $1.6 million, which would be used to hire additional assistant principals and counselors.
Vallas Proposes to Reduce Class Size in Philadelphia’s High Schools
In Philadelphia, a new five-year, $1.5 billion plan released by chief executive Paul Vallas takes significant steps to improve high school education in the city. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the plan calls for the addition of 20 high schools and major renovations to 13 other high schools. Of the 20 added high schools, 11 will be new and nine will be converted from middle schools. In addition, four under-enrolled elementary and middle schools will be closed at the end of the year. The proposed plan is to eventually phase out 20 of the city’s middle schools which face low achievement and behavioral problems.
Under the plan, Vallas expects to lower the overall size of Philadelphia’s high schools, some of which are as large as 3,000 students, to an average of about 800 students. The plan, which must still be approved by the School Reform Commission, will still questions about future finances but Vallas says that the district is on track to finish the fiscal year on target. “We’re comfortable. We’ve done this before.”