A Matter of Leadership: An Ideas in Action Special Report on Ending America's Dropout Crisis March 30, 2012
As part of CPB's American Graduate initiative, Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman takes an in-depth look at nationwide efforts toward ending America's dropout crisis. This new one-hour HD documentary is A Matter of Leadership. Success stories from schools across the country are highlighted and focus on the core components that have proven highly effective in addressing the crisis, middle school intervention and innovative leadership training.
Discussion Questions for A Matter of Leadership
1. Marsh Middle School in Dallas used the RTOC program to address behavior for the entire school thus allowing the students to focus more on learning. What are some other ways that you have or would like to address overall behavior at your school?
2. At Harshman Middle School in Indianapolis, the staff uses individual data to track each student's academic achievement. Can this be done at your school without additional staff?
3. Principal Archambault at Gibson Middle School in Las Vegas works hard to address distracting issues that students face at home. How much should a school be involved in a student's home life?
4. The staff at Leslie County High School in Kentucky got mentoring support from the Kentucky Department of Education. Do you feel that your state gives principals and teachers adequate support?
5. Jane Patterson of the Los Angeles Education Partnership mentions that parents need to partner with school to ensure academic success for their children. What are some creative ways to engage parents in their children's education?
6. We hear a lot about the importance of teachers but not much about principals. Do you think enough attention is being paid to the role of principals and what makes principals effective leaders?
This program is part of the American Graduate - Let's Make It Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Producating.
America is facing a crisis - a dropout crisis. In some high schools, the rate is a staggering 50 percent or more. But that's starting to change. I'm Jim Glassman. Join me for A Matter of Leadership - a special one-hour report as part of the public media initiative American Graduate - Let's Make It Happen. We'll profile what's working around the country and explore the vital role middle schools and principals play in addressing the crisis and reversing the statistics. This is Ideas In Action.
Funding for Ideas in Action is provided by Investor's Business Daily. Every stock market cycle is led by America's never ending stream of innovative new companies and inventions. Investors Business Daily helps investors find these new leaders as they emerge. More information is available at Investors.com.
All over America, each school day students arrive ready to continue their educational journeys. The goal is to prepare them for a bright future by going on to college or embarking on a rewarding career. How they do on that journey will affect the rest of their lives. There will be challenges along the way - classes that prove difficult, social pressures and off-campus distractions. Still many will emerge with a high school diploma equipped to navigate the future - but not all of them.
There is no work in the 21st Century if you don't have a high school diploma.
Robert Balfanz is one of the country's leading experts on the dropout crisis. He says the future looks grim for those without a high school diploma.
Currently, the nation has a graduation rate of right about 75 percent. Which means that there's about a million kids a year that are not getting their diplomas on time. There's four million in the Class of 2010. Three million got diplomas in June. If you're in your 20s, don't have a high school degree, don't have a work history, are you ever going to work? Probably not. But every year, we're putting a million kids towards that future.
Between 1970 and 2001, U.S. graduation rates declined by 6%. And despite modest gains in recent years, far too many students continue to fall through the cracks. As an official with the U.S. Department Of Education, Michael Yudin knows that the stakes are high for individuals, communities and the nation.
It's absolutely a moral imperative that we provide them with the supports and the resources that they need to graduate from high school college and career-ready. But it's also an economic imperative. The countries that out-educate us today out-compete us tomorrow.
High school dropout rates are largely concentrated at particular schools in particular school districts. These persistently low-achieving clusters are called "dropout factories" and they graduate less than 60% of their students.
This is a national problem.
Wendy Puriefoy, president of the public education network, works with low-income school districts around the country.
This is what the school reform work is about in this country now, is to say that your zip code should not be your destiny. And therefore, we need to make sure that regardless of how much money your family makes or where you live, you have the right to a quality education because you live in America.
Really the intersection is between poverty and dropping out. But because poverty rates are higher among minorities, we then get higher minority dropout rates.
If the dropouts from the class of 2009 had each received a diploma, they would have earned an additional $335-billion dollars over their lifetimes that would have been added to the U.S. economy. As a nation, we spend approximately $9-billion dollars a year supporting dropouts through public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid. Michael Brown heads city year's mission to increase high school graduation rates in urban areas.
Over a course of a lifetime, a high school dropout will make a million less than a college graduate. A high school dropout is eight times more likely to be incarcerated in his or her lifetime than a high school graduate. This could create an underclass, a permanent underclass in our society.
The statics sound bad because they are bad. Fortunately, there is another side to this story.
The good news is when we think about it, we actually know where the problem's located. We know which high schools are producing most of the dropouts. Over the last decade, we've actually built up a lot of good evidence-based strategy that have evidence of working. We actually know what to do. We actually know that it takes to engage kids. We know what it takes to sort of nag and nurture them through.
We will explore two elements that are key to turning around the dropout crisis. Later we'll discuss how strong school leadership can create a culture of high expectations and high achievement. But first we'll take a look at the critical middle school years. Middle school may sound too soon to tackle high school dropout rates but studies show that the pre-teen years are a critical to high school success. Bob Wise is the former governor of West Virginia and current president for the Alliance for Excellent Education.
The best news is that I think this country has finally woken up to the dropout crisis. And so a lot of attention given to early warning indicators, particularly in middle school, immediately capturing when a student is beginning to, one, miss a lot more class, number two fail a class, or number three, have disciplinary problems.
We start by looking at one middle school in Dallas, Texas that is boosting academic achievement by using student engagement both inside and outside of the classroom.
This is the Thomas C. Marsh Middle School award-winning ROTC drill team. It is one of the school's hallmark programs designed to instill discipline and high expectations in students from the surrounding disadvantaged and largely minority community.
We give all students that enter into this building a chance regardless of their background, their income level or their ethnicity. They have the opportunity to be the very best. And we insure our teachers with the skills and materials to do so. One of the reasons why we're one of the best schools in Dallas is due to our test scores, from last year. In writing we were 92% passing, reading we were 90%, math 90%, science 81%.
But such academic success didn't happen overnight.
In 1999, it wasn't the best of place to work. Lot of gang activity. Lots of bullying, fighting, you know. Our scores were low. We were I guess you know, everything you would think of a big, large urban school district, public school kids. I guess that's what, you know, if you wanted to sum it up.
JIM GLASSMAN: Corporal David Bates was hired in 1999 specifically to establish an ROTC program as part of an overall plan to boost student performance. Getting students engaged in school is a big part of that effort.
We started with nothing. And then we started fund-raising. We started getting uniforms. We started getting, you know, materials. I started writing my own curriculum. Four or five years later, we had all kinds of gear, and we started winning competitions. That's when we got a little bit of people "What's going on over there?"
A typical school day, okay, always starts off with you know, we call to attention and we tell them to take their seats. They all sit down the same way. Procedures are huge, the way we pass out folders, you know, the way I go over to calendar every single day, the way we take notes, the way we sit, the way we stand, the way we walk. Once I get that regimen in, it becomes real easy.
I teach first aid, land navigation, time management, organizational skills, history. I do what's called effective Army writing, and basically its just good writing skills. I call it that, and the kids think it's (LAUGH) you know, something different. But really it's just good writing.
Kids who are involved tend to have better grades and go on to graduate from college. So we do encourage for them to do something besides just coming to school.
I joined ROTC because I wanted to have the right to say that I was part of some of the trophies that are up there.
When the kids perform for me, they perform at a high level and they don't want to let me down. So when I just put little things on the table like, "We do better. Your scores need to be better. You better do this, you better do that," they don't want to let me down. You know, at home, it's been okay not to pay their bills. It's been okay, you know, not to get a referral. It's been okay. That's what it's been. It's just been okay. Well, that average, okay stuff is not good enough here.
Coach bates sets high expectations, expectations that mirror those of the school at large.
CARLOTTA THOMAS We expect for students to have A's or B's on report cards. We expect them for them to go to tutoring if they need help. We expect for them to read. We expect for them to do science fair projects. We expect for them to be dressed appropriately for school, and to have great behavior. So anything that we want them to do, we expect for them to do at their very best.
The reason I joined ROTC is because I like what the program does. It changes people life.
What changed my life was from being out there in the street, like, just being bad, and stuff like that. And once I came in here, I learned discipline, how to treat people, how to respect people, how to respect my elders, parents, why they're here for us, why they do so much for us. And we are going to do something for them when we grow up.
For some students, meeting the expectations of the ROTC program can be quite a transition.
It's really up to them to see if they want to change because if you want to be in ROTC, you have to change. Like, you can't just be slacking off. You can't get in trouble in school. That'll leave a bad reputation on your school.
When I put my uniform on, it's an amazing feeling. I am proud of myself. And it makes you feel like you're actually doing something for your community. And I think that's really important. It's like the most exciting thing. You're out there and everyone sees you. And they don't just see you as this person. They see you as a cadet at Marsh Middle School.
The discipline is not what a lot of people think discipline is like, you know, the pushups and this, that and the other. It's the self-discipline, the discipline to do what is right when no one is looking. You know, that integrity starts to come into play with some of these kids, like they know that they got to do well or, you know, they'll hear it.
That spirit of community and a spirit of giving and leadership has kind of trickled down from the ROTC down into our core classes and into an overall campus environment.
All the teachers at marsh middle use job assignments to teach students responsibility and to get them invested in their own education.
One way to make them engaged and feeling important is to give them a job or a task to do. And so, if we are doing a collaborative activity in a group, you might make one the actual spokesperson. You might make another one the actual person that is collecting the supplies afterward and sort of cleaning up the area. And you might make one the actual writer, the person that's actually writing the data down.
The kids all have jobs. When you give a kid a job, he takes it seriously. But here, just passing out folders, not really a great job, but it's their job. They take it seriously.
In the ROTC program jobs range from menial to management.
My position here in JROTC, I'm commander officer. I lead morning. I lead every single day through all these students that come in here. They look up to me. And they would like to be up there one day.
Especially being a C.O., I learned that I could be a leader, no matter what it is, no matter what occasion it is. I learned how to be committed to something. And if you stay committed to something, you know you can achieve anything you want.
When students are engaged and well behaved, it is easier for teachers to do their jobs.
If you're able to teach, then you're able to get results. If you're able to relate to the kids and there's less distractions with other outside of the classroom items then you're able to get the results that you need.
It's been 13 years since coach bates started the ROTC program at marsh middle. He's gone from 78 to 317 students. About a third of the student body now participates in the program. And while his drill team has won numerous national championships, he is most proud of his students' high school graduation rate of 97%. But he's not done yet.
You know, everybody's "high school graduation, high school graduation." Well, I'm at the point now where I want to take it another step. The high school diploma, it's not as good as it used to be. My hopes and goals and dreams for the kids - 100% graduate from college.
You're making a lot of choices about your future in middle school. It's here in middle school where you really do make the choice of are you going go to on to further post-secondary learning, whether it's going to be college or a two or four year college.
We do talk about college a lot at our campus. Our campus has become a branding campus for college. If you walk around the classrooms in this school you will see college bulletin boards, college projects. The students can wear college t-shirts. We have a college week and we take them on college field trips. We understand you're going to go to high school. So we just decided to take it a step further to make sure that you're going to be a college graduate.
That's our way of showing them, "This is our culture. This is what we do at this school. We talk about going to college." So everything that we do, it's about going to college. When they know the end goal, they understand it. They know the reasoning behind why we do things the way we do them.
ROTC helped me prepare to go to high school because as when I came into this program, I didn't really know a lot of leadership skills. So when I walked in, right away I knew I was going to be a leader.
It helped me to be disciplined and organized. And it just helped so much with my grades. I had A's all year, never C's. It was just because of the ROTC program.
The kids love Coach Bates. They respect him. They do not think he's too firm. They understand that he has a goal for them so they want to live up to that goal and they do not want to disappoint him. They truly love Coach Bates.
I like to think my students are the best in the world, and that's, I know 100% of the time, they are the best in the world when they're with me. Sometimes (LAUGH) when they're not with me, they're not the best in (LAUGH) the world. But that's what we work on every day.
The kids are special here at Marsh Middle School because they understand that, in spite of some of their circumstances that they will achieve. They understand no matter what "I can make it. I will go to college."
Another way to make sure middle school students stay on the path to high school gradation is to follow and utilize data and information about how each student's performance.
Your attendance, and behavior and course performance are all in the teacher's grade book. It's not some exotic survey. It doesn't have to come from some agency. It's collected every day in the building. And so if you just pay attention to this and act upon it as soon as you see a kid going in a negative trajectory, you have a much greater sense of succeeding.
Many of our middle school students aren't reading at grade level. And when they're entering high school, a clear early warning indicator, a good data system tells you when a student's off track and immediately can trigger intervention. It's about personalization and it's also about the ability to develop that graduation plan.
Next, we'll visit a middle school in Indianapolis, Indiana, that is using individual learning data to identify students who are struggling in class. Those students then get the help they need to eventually graduate high school and prepare for a successful future.
A number of ingredients is needed to insure strong middle school academic success. The staff at Harshman Magnet Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana has found a winning combination to help every student succeed regardless of his or her background.
We have approximately 410 students in the school, of which 87 percent are free-and-reduced lunch. We have approximately 60 percent African-American, 30 percent Hispanic, 10 percent white.
This school is a story of remarkable turnaround. The principal and the faculty and the staff that the principal has gathered here has really, really embodied the whole sense of leading change, of establishing a sense of urgency, establishing a vision.
Before principal Guffin arrived in 2009, many staff members assumed that the majority poor student body couldn't or wouldn't learn. The students believed it too.
Students were out in the hallways on a regular basis, not attentive in class. Heads were down. Some students wanted to go to sleep. There were fights in the building on a regular basis. We decided that that had to change.
Those changes resulted in significant academic improvement for Harshman students. Principal Guffin's first year, language and math scores on the Indiana state test improved by 9%. In his second year, they improved by an additional 28%. It was the greatest improvement in test scores by any middle school in the entire state. So how did the students and staff make such great strides in just two years? One key factor was colleting data on each and every student to determine where help was needed. Whitney Newton is in charge of gathering, analyzing and disseminating the data.
The way that we look at students is each student is a holistic person. And we want information about them that will help us meet their needs across the board, everything from what they need in math to what they need at home and everything in between. So when we're collecting and analyzing data, we want lots of different pieces about each student.
We are constantly looking at how our students perform today and how we can take that information as a teacher and use that to inform my instruction? What did they do? What do they know? Did they meet the objective that we planned for our classroom?
So it's really looking at the goal for the end of the year which is broken down into the goal at the end of each unit, which is broken down into the goal at the end of each day. Alright. What are we going to do to get there?
The goal at the end of the school year is to pass an exam that measures a student's progress on basic academic subjects. It's called "The Indiana Statewide Testing For Educational Progress Plus" - otherwise know as ISTEP.
We'll take that ISTEP exam, look at where our deficiencies in our students were. And we will use that to plan an overall plan for each nine weeks or each semester or the entire year. We look at where students are strong, where students are weak. And how can we shore those areas up?
In addition to unit exams and report cards every 9-weeks, the staff at Harshman uses 6-question mini-tests called "scrimmages" to benchmark student progress.
So we're looking at, every three weeks, "Did they get the standards that were in the pacing guide from the previous three weeks? And how are they doing with that?" As the coaches, we roll that data out to the teachers and give them a chance each month to look at that data as a team, analyze it, put it together, separate it into different formats, whether it's by standard or by sub-group.
Teachers collect data on a daily basis using what has come to be known as an "exit ticket."
An exit ticket is basically, like, going over, like, basically what we learned in that class at that time. And we do it at the end of the class, like, before the bell rings.
It doesn't always have to be an official thing. But I always end a class with a wrap-up activity. It can be just asking questions, going into individual groups and asking individual kids and asking them in a way that they've got to think about what we've learned on a higher level.
Collecting all of this data is one thing but organizing it in a useful way is quite another.
Because we have so much data that we're collecting and we're really trying to organize it for teachers, a lot of them are using data, but it's not very effective for them from their perspective because they have it in a packet here, in a file here, and it's on this computer program and here on this website. And so what we tried to do was bring it all together onto one database - very simple, just a two-column spreadsheet online that all the teachers can access at any time.
For example, if teachers find that 40-percent of the students are struggling with a topic, they will continue to emphasize it.
Part of my learning as a teacher is to use assessment as a tool to drive my instruction. So I may set a unit to last two weeks but if they're not getting it, I've got to continue to incorporate those while staying on pace with the curriculum.
If only one or two are having difficulty, those students can get personalized help from one of the instructional specialists.
MEE HEE KIM:
We pull out these students during their elective period, and work with them one on one, or a small group setting to master these standards in a really individualized, instructional kind of experience that they can't get within a normal classroom.
The educational specialists also use a strategy called "front loading" in many of their one-on-one teaching sessions.
MEE HEE KIM:
We kind of pre-teach them what they're going to be learning that day, so they're exposed to the vocabulary. They're exposed to the skill a little bit.
It allows them to be the person in the classroom who has their hand up first. It allows them to be the person in the classroom who people look to for the answers. The confidence that they gain and the pride that develops becomes something that is immeasurable and allows students to grow and begin to know, "I can do this."
After I worked with Mr. Spencer, it was good because I could understand how the problem worked out. And it was cool.
Principal Guffin and his staff feel that sharing the data with the students themselves is a key to academic success.
The teachers in their classes, so math and language arts, all took their ISTEP scores, handed them out to students, and had them fill out a reflection individually so that they could look at, "What was my score? What do I want my goal to be? Why was that my score? Why do I want this to be my goal?" and just really allowed each student to see, "Where am I in comparison to where I'm supposed to be this year.
Teachers here a strict but also want you to have fun, be safe, and to do what you got do to get the job done.
It's really exciting, though, to hear kids say, "I didn't pass ISTEP last year but I'm going to pass it this year." It's really powerful to hear a student take that ownership and advocate for themselves and say, "I want to pass ISTEP this year so I am coming to your tutoring this week." We're teaching to our students, where they are, where they're coming in, and where we want them to be, to be-- successful and move on to high school and college and-- and (CLAP) jobs that allow them to be happy.
I've never known a student that has come to school and said, the first day of school, "this year, I'm going to get in trouble." Every student that comes to this school wants to succeed. And every year, they start out with, "I'm going to be my best that I can be." And how we respond to them makes a huge difference in how they behave in school.
If you get good grades, that means you'll get far in life. And you'll have a house, maybe a good wife. You get good grades, you get to be anything you want to be.
Marsh middle school in Dallas and Harshman Middle in Indianapolis are just two schools making the kind of positive change that is happening all over the country. But transformative change doesn't happen on it's own. School leadership matters. A skilled principal can reduce the dropout rate of a school that is troubled in other areas, while poor leadership - even in a school filled with talented teachers - can condemn students to mediocrity. Dewey Hensley is a commissioner with the Kentucky department of education. He oversees a program that helps turn schools around through leadership mentoring.
Having strong leaderships inside our schools, it's crucial. These leaders make the weather in the building. They help to change belief systems. Their ability to step up and say what's important, identify the goals along with their faculty and staff, to create a collective vision that moves kids and schools forward is crucial.
Next we look at ways effective leadership by principals and administrators can help boost student achievement and high school graduation rates. We begin in Las Vegas, Nevada where one principal has gained national recognition for guiding her school to excellence.
Its 6:30am. The start of another school day at Robert O. Gibson Middle School. Principal Linda Archambualt is already at her desk.
I love this school. And I've had people say, "You're crazy for wanting to be in an old building in an economically disadvantaged area of town." I stay in middle school because I know that if I'm successful in helping them make better choices, that their four years of high school are going to be fantastic. And that's my goal.
We have a great principal. I was very excited when she got the number one principal of the nation this year. And she loves us and she helps us with everything.
In 2011, she was named principal of the year by the national association of secondary school principals. She steered the school to a 98% attendance rate and introduced sought-after magnet programs in leadership and foreign languages. This was a big transformation. Principal Archambault arrived at Gibson Middle as an assistant principal in 2004. Like many schools in urban environments, Gibson struggled with a long list of debilitating problems. Most troubling was the violence.
I did believe that at some point time, either the principal or I would probably lose our life.
My sisters were telling me, like, there was fires in the bathrooms from kids starting them and a lot of fights in the lunch lines. People would get arrested.
Students were generally rude, apathetic, just a lot of screaming and yelling everything and loud voices
But violence in the school was only part of the problem.
They deal with a lot of issues. You know, the abuse at home, the neglect, the non-existent parent because they're working three jobs. Three families living in one home, two bedroom. hey deal with so many different things. It gets to you after a while.
Just because a kid is poor, or their parents are poor, doesn't mean that they don't have a lot of ability, that they don't have a lot of potential, because they do. Poverty, economic inequality, other kinds of inequalities mitigate against those kids having opportunities. It's not the ability that they lack. It's the opportunity.
Poverty disables them, but it doesn't disqualify them. And I think it's very important that we provide every student a plan that will give them the academic, the social and the health supports necessary to overcome any types of barrier that they might have that impedes their opportunity to learn.
Principal Archambault realized that student's behavior inside the school and the impact of their lives outside the school weren't the only hindrances to learning. The school building itself, old and dilapidated, also presented a challenge.
I get frustrated because people say it shouldn't matter whether or not the kids are proud of the building. That is a bunch of malarkey. It does matter. And when I first got here in 2004, the kids would joke and say that the "G" for Gibson meant "ghetto." And they called it a ghetto school. It broke my heart. We had open, exposed wiring. We had holes in ceilings where you could see the sky, and it wasn't a skylight. How can you send the message that education is important if you don't deal with the facility and create a school that they're proud of?
The final challenge was dealing with students and parents who often spoke little or no English.
We don't really have strong strategies to work with that particular population. And when they don't develop the literacy skills required to succeed in high school, their chances of moving on to higher education really become, you know, much more narrow.
Eighty percent of my student population is Hispanic. And it's a second language to most of the students.
All of these obstacles led to what seemed like an insurmountable achievement gap. Test scores were low with only 27 percent of the students demonstrating proficiency in math and language arts. As school leader, Principal Archambault knew that she'd have to address each and every one of these issues.
When I became the principal in 2006, I knew that we had to make a change. And it had to occur fairly quickly for the behaviors to get under control.
So she started with the basics.
We implemented some programs, and those programs included character education, a serious unit on respect. We began teaching students skills that we thought that they should know, and found that they did not have, such as being polite, holding a door, please and thank you, excuse me. And once we started teaching the social skills, we started seeing change.
Gibson Middle School's band director Pablo Navarro has been with the school for 15 years.
Our principal, Linda Archambault, has been instrumental in trying to change that climate here. And it's worked. If you walk down the hallways, you'll hear a lot of students saying "good morning," "good afternoon," "how are you?" They want to strike up a conversation. Very polite, they'll open the doors for you. That's something we didn't see 15 years ago.
Dr. Archambault is the protector of this school. This is her baby and that's in a good way. She is very protective of the students, very caring, And she's protective of the building, too
Principal Archambault next turned to the building itself. She solicited help from the very people who would benefit most from a school make-over - the students.
We also did the beautification and it was, we really liked it. It looks better than just grass. We're all really proud of it because we all knew inside that we all worked at it and we had did this.
Even principal Archambault rolled up her sleeves.
Comparing her to other administrators that I've had, she puts more of her heart into this building.
How many times have we heard, "Lead by example. Lead by example." And we believe it and we-- we think it's true, but we won't lead by example if we have to mop up the floor. If we have to sweep our own rooms or paint a wall. And those were the things that really reached me, because I realized, "If my boss can do it, then I can do it, too." And that was very encouraging.
But there are some things beyond a school leader's control like the issues that students deal with away from school. Many of Gibson's students are considered poor. Eighty percent qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Principal Archambault and her staff had to first make sure her students were ready to learn.
We have students who aren't showering because they don't have hot water. We offer a shower here at school. We wash clothes for students when they need it. We have students who come to school that are sleeping in cars. So they can't do their homework, because they don't have a light to work from. We offered an opportunity period in the morning where the teachers come in and there's a half an hour where they're in their classrooms. Students who have tried to do their homework at night and aren't successful can go in before school and get individual help. And that's made a difference as well.
Research tells us, the two major factors are what happens in the classroom and what happens at home. What parents can do is really become partners with their teachers in the education of their children.
Engaging parents in a way they understand also helps student performance. Many schools around the country offer language support for their student population. But how many schools offer it to parents as well?
One of the biggest steps that we've taken in engaging our parents is to provide almost every communication in Spanish and in English. I have 12 faculty that are bilingual in addition to the office staff. And that in itself has encouraged parents to feel more comfortable coming in. We even offer tutoring for students where the parents can come with them. And the parents take us up on it. They feel that if they learn that math or the English or the reading that it'll be able to transfer to the other children coming up. And I'm surprised at the number of parents who show up for that.
Addressing behavior, the building, home life and parental involvement had a positive effect on the students.
We started seeing them transform from kids that were in survival mode to students. From that point, we started working about the academics. We knew if we didn't get the culture and climate under control that the academics would never occur in a classroom. And we're at a point now where the academics are the focus for the students here at school.
At Gibson, academic achievement has increased more than 100% over the past five years. Test scores have gone up from a 27-percent proficiency rate to 60%.
The change in the culture as affected the students and the student performance. They have more confidence. They feel more secure here. They're getting that positive reinforcement that they need inside the classroom and outside the classroom.
I am proud to go to Gibson because knowing the way Gibson started out and it wasn't that very good of a school and no one wanted to go here because of all the bad things people were hearing about it. And now you're hearing our principal is a great principal, got principal of the year. And Gibson is like one of the best schools of the nation now. Yes, I'm very proud to go here.
I think the role of the middle school is to prepare the students for high school and that it's critical for their success in high school. If they don't go to high school with the basic skills that they need, and if they don't go to high school with the right attitude and the right work ethic, they're not going to be successful. We do what we can to make sure that we're meeting their needs so that when they do go to Western or to any other high school in the city that not only are they prepared, but they shine as Gibson students.
Though schools in urban and rural America may seem worlds apart, they actually share many of the same challenges. In both, poverty and low standards go hand and hand. How do transformational school leaders get the resources and training to help turn their schools around? Sometimes it starts with asking for help.
A high school principal's job is never easy.
The gamut goes from being a nurse to a janitor and sometimes to a counselor or whatever. But generally it's an exciting day.
And principal Kevin Gay has lots to do to keep Leslie county high school in Hyden, Kentucky on track to continue its successful turnaround.
PRINCIPAL KEVIN GAY:
I feel like my job as principal of the school is to support our teachers in teaching and learning and that my top priority is that our whole school is about student learning by constantly learning and looking at where we're at and where we need to go.
Mr. Gay is very active within the student population. He's always out walking around at lunch. You know, checking on everybody. He'll talk to you. He's very nice. He's a good guy. He's a great person and he's here for the right reasons.
Like many rural schools around the nation, Leslie county high faces age old problems.
Often, in rural communities, you have high levels of poverty where there's been generational poverty over a period of time there's almost a status quo in some Appalachian counties, for example, where the same families stay at the same social strata over generations. That makes change sometimes very difficult. It also creates a culture or a mindset in the community that has to be changed.
The challenges in rural communities are indeed different, right, the economies of scale, the ability to recruit and retain the best teachers is definitely a challenge. But we need to make sure that we're looking at rural communities and providing them with the opportunities to succeed and achieve.
In rural areas, re-staffing isn't such an easy option because there's not that large pool of teachers, there's not a lot of schools in the district where transfers are easy to make happen. They're limited to that transformational model which means that they're going to invest in the professional development of their teachers and are truly progress monitored to see those results.
PRINCIPAL KEVIN GAY:
When I first arrived at Leslie County High School we were identified as a persistently low-achieving school. We were identified as a bottom 10 school. Only 15% of our students were scoring proficient or distinguished in mathematics that year and about 40% in language arts and reading.
I'm originally from this area and so I knew the teaching staff, I knew the students were capable of much more.
Principal Gay sought aid from an innovative state program to help his existing teachers realize their potential. The Kentucky Department of Education assigned him an educational recovery team.
We scour the state and find people who become educational recovery specialists. Those specialists are highly skilled. They go into the school and they work in math, in literacy, and a third person who's a leadership person that works to mentor and support and help the principal. That unprecedented amount of support to go into a single school is very valuable. They work really hard to ensure that when they leave in three years, two or three years, that as they leave, they leave behind strong teachers, a different attitude about the school, and measurable success.
I have seen dramatic change in the time that I have been here.
Susan Brock was brought in to work directly with Principal Gay and the administrative staff.
We actually began by something that most businesses do which is looking at a vision and mission statement. You know, without a vision the people perish and that's kind of what we've dealt with here. Is that we do have to have a school mission and vision.
In persistently low achieving schools, really in all schools, but it's magnified in persistently low achieving schools, is the idea of culture. A leader and the people inside that building, they create the culture.
Part of that culture is making sure that students feel included and valued in their own education.
We had to change the mindset that we were not making change or trying to increase student achievement because of test scores. That test scores are just a result of students actually learning and becoming college and career ready and going on to whatever their post-secondary ambition is.
When I come in as a freshman, it was a really different. Not much work. Not much homework. The teachers didn't really teach you that much. And as the years went on you could tell that there's a big change because you had more homework and teachers worked harder. The administration worked harder. Everybody was just all in one together for a certain purpose. When I see somebody doing that it makes me want to work hard myself.
If we're able to take those kids from the fringe and make them feel that they belong, make them feel that the school is theirs to a degree and that they're valued and significant in the school, then what we do is we give them that sense of belonging. Our ability to create that sense of belonging is a first step toward dealing with disenfranchised students who become our dropouts.
With a vision and culture of high expectations in place, Principal Gay and the educational recovery staff began to introduce new procedures and protocols.
Initially they helped develop processes and systems. And early on in the turnaround process we had so many processes that needed attention that it was really important for them to be here to help gain that critical mass that we needed for school turnaround. The new systems deal with all aspects of school life including discipline, scheduling, communications and progress reviews.
We work from a plan, a school improvement plan, that's very tailored to what we do here. We refer to it as a 30/60/90 day plan because we monitor very closely every 30 days. We don't work in the dark. We use the data and we make decisions based on the data, individual student data and school data.
We've changed our communication flow. Instead of it being teachers are not really sure what's going on, we know first hand what's going on. We're always in touch with what's going on with the administration.
The administration supports the teachers now a lot. It's not a one-way path. We can talk to them, tell them, make suggestions, and they do their best to try to help us with that.
The educational recovery team also introduced professional development for instructors.
ERS stands for educational recovery staff specialist. There are ERSs are in math and language arts.
Our educational recovery specialists, she's in our classrooms just about every day. We have meetings with her at least once a week.
Working with teachers here and building the capacity to identify individual student needs and work with those has made the most difference.
We test children throughout the year and we find the gaps. We try to fill in those gaps and catch them up to where they're supposed to be. And I think that's one of the reasons we've done so well in the last couple of years.
We've got a great staff here at Leslie County High School. They always, you know, want to help you and if you need extra help they'll you know, stay with you after class or help you with problems that you may have.
We've talked about how the conversations have evolved from management-type issues into 99% of all our conversations are about student learning. If you go talk to teachers it's about student information, student data that they have, and what we can do to improve. And I think that's a true indicator of a successful school.
Since the program was introduced in 2009, Leslie County High School has attained both a higher graduation rate and better student achievement.
PRINCIPAL KEVIN GAY:
The school's performance is wonderful. Our mathematics percent proficient and distinguished is at 53%. Our reading scores proficient and distinguished are at 83%. So it's been a huge increase over the last two years.
Which ranks Leslie County 27th out of 250 high schools in Kentucky.
What makes me most proud about the school is our students and their effort and how proud they are of their accomplishments that they've made over the past two years. We've talked to them and talked to them about giving their best effort. And that's all we can ask of them. And they've done that.
After high school I'm probably going to go to college. I haven't decided where yet but probably major in biology, go pre-med and then go to med school.
I want them to understand that just because they're from eastern Kentucky doesn't mean that they can't score well on a test, that they can't go to college and be whatever they want to be. That's the truth.
As we've seen, transformative school leaders set a culture of high expectations for students, teachers and even themselves. This attitude of achievement can go a long way to boosting American graduation rates. This concludes our look at the national dropout crisis as part of the American Graduate - Let's Make It Happen initiative. For ideas in action, I'm Jim Glassman. Thanks for watching.
Dr. Robert Balfanz
Co-Director of the Everyone Graduates Center
Robert Balfanz, PhD, is a co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center and research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University. He is the co-director of the Talent Development Middle and High School Project, which is currently working with more than 100 high-poverty secondary schools to develop, implement and evaluate comprehensive whole school reforms. He is also co-operator of the Baltimore Talent Development High School, an Innovation High School run in partnership with the Baltimore City Public School System. He has published widely on secondary school reform, high school dropouts, early warning systems and instructional interventions in high-poverty schools. Recent work includes Locating the Dropout Crisis, with co-author Nettie Legters, in which they identify the number and location of high schools with high dropout rates and What Your Community Can Do to End its Dropout Crisis. Dr. Balfanz is the first recipient of the Alliance For Excellent Education’s Everyone a Graduate Award.
Everyone Graduates Center
Chief Executive Director
Michael Brown is Co-Founder and CEO of City Year, a nonprofit organization built on the belief that young people can change the world. City Year is focused on addressing the nation’s high school dropout crisis. In 2009, Mr. Brown announced "In School & On Track: A National Challenge," City Year’s national initiative to significantly increase the urban high school graduation pipeline in America by calling on the nation’s idealistic young adults to help students in high poverty schools succeed.
Mr. Brown was named one of America’s Best Leaders by US News and World Report and an Executive of the Year by NonProfit Times for his leadership role in ServiceNation and the passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. For his work developing City Year, Michael Brown has been awarded several distinctions, including the Reebok Human Rights Award, the National Caring Award, the Samuel S. Beard Jefferson Award of the American Institute for Public Service, the Boston Bar Association's Public Service Award, the Harvard Law School Association Award, and four honorary degrees.
Mr. Brown is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Prior to starting City Year, Mr. Brown served as a legislative assistant to then Congressman Leon Panetta and as a clerk for Federal Judge Stephen Breyer.
Dr. Dewey Hensley
Associate Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education's Office of District 180
Dewey D. Hensley is associate commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Office of District 180. He oversees the newly created Office of District 180, which will support low-performing schools and districts that are identified for educational recovery based on state and federal guidelines and requirements. The office includes the Division of Student Success, which is focused on alternative education programs and virtual delivery of instruction.
Prior to being named associate commissioner, Hensley served as principal of J.B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Jefferson County, leading the school to make dramatic improvements in academic achievement. He also served as principal of Bates Elementary in Jefferson County, was a Highly Skilled Educator assigned to schools in northern Kentucky and was a high school English, humanities and communications teacher in the Berea Independent, Eminence Independent, Jefferson County and Oldham County school districts. Hensley is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Hensley earned a bachelor’s degree from Berea College, a master’s degree from the University of Louisville, school administrator certification from Eastern Kentucky University and a doctorate from Spalding University.
Kentucky Department of Education
Director of Research, Philadelphia Education Fund
Director of Research, Philadelphia Education Fund
Liza Herzog is the Director of Research at the Philadelphia Education Fund. Since joining the Ed Fund in July 2003, Dr. Herzog, in partnership with researchers at Johns Hopkins University, has co-directed research and authored reports on comprehensive school reform, the professional development of teachers, and dropout prevention.
She works with a regional team of researchers, practitioners, and social service agencies on the Philadelphia Educational Longitudinal Study (PELS), which follows more than 2,000 8th graders in Philadelphia public schools through to three years past on-time graduation.
Before joining the Ed Fund, Dr. Herzog was a Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania, where she conducted qualitative research in higher education. Prior to her work in education, she was a practicing attorney for four years. Dr. Herzog holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania, a J.D. from Temple University, and a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Education Fund
Dr. Lindan Hill
Director, Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership
Dr. Lindan Hill is the Dean of the Marian University School of Education. Dr. Hill brings extensive educational and professional backgrounds to this position. His education includes a B.S. in English from Indiana University, an M.S. in Special Education from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Special Education and Education Administration from Purdue University. His professional experience as an educator includes 4 years as a Middle School teacher in Miami, Florida and Kokomo, Indiana, 3 years as a High School Principal at Merrillville High School in Merrillville, Indiana, 23 years as Superintendent of Schools, most recently in the Eastern Howard school system, and 5 years as Director of Teacher Education.
Dr. Hill chose a career in education because he wanted “to contribute to improving the teaching and learning process. I had the most wonderful, loving and caring first grade teacher who made a lasting and very positive impact on me as I started out my journey early in life. I want to do the same for others.” Dr. Hill pursued the new Dean of the School of Education position because he appreciated the “quality of program, quality of people and Franciscan Values” that Marian had to offer.
Dr. Hill’s philosophy education reflects both his professional and spiritual commitments: “My philosophy of education is that the teaching and learning process, done properly, is a journey toward God. The teaching and learning process is one of “becoming”, of transformation. It is a journey through which a person becomes someone else tomorrow than they are today. The teaching and learning process is about not just knowledge acquisition, but thoughtful and moral application of that knowledge. If we hold the beliefs that God is omniscient and possesses moral perfection, and if we pursue thoughtful and moral application of knowledge in our journey of the teaching and learning process, then that puts us in journey toward God. Not TO God, because we mortals will never reach parity to God, but it does indeed put us in journey toward God.”
Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership, Marian University
John H. Jackson
President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education
On July 2, 2007, Dr. John H. Jackson became the President and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education. In this role, Dr. Jackson leads the Foundation’s efforts to ensure a high quality public education for all students regardless of race or gender. Dr. Jackson joined the Schott Foundation after seven productive years in leadership positions at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He served as the NAACP Chief Policy Officer and prior to that as the NAACP's National Director of Education.
Dr. Jackson also served as an Adjunct Professor of Race, Gender, and Public Policy at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. In 1999, President William Jefferson Clinton appointed Dr. Jackson to serve in his administration as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. Jackson possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Xavier University of Louisiana; A Master of Education in Education Policy from the University of Illinois' College of Education; and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois' College of Law. In addition, Dr. Jackson received a Master of Education and Doctorate of Education in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Dr. Jackson served on the Obama-Biden transition team as a member of the President’s 13-member Education Policy Transition Work Group.
Schott Foundation for Public Education
Founder and Head of Schools, E.L. Haynes Public Charter
Jennie Niles is the Founder of E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. E.L. Haynes’ mission is for every one of its students to reach high levels of academic achievement and be prepared to succeed at the college of his or her choice. In April 2008, E.L. Haynes was chosen from DC’s 56 charter schools as the recipient of Fight for Children’s first-ever Quality Schools Initiative award. The school was ranked 6th among a consortium of 99 charter schools nationwide and, as such, was also the winner of a Silver-Gain Award from New Leaders for New Schools’ Effective Practice Incentive Community grant program. In June 2003, Ms. Niles finished her fellowship with New Leaders for New Schools, an intensive, year-long program to prepare urban principals. New American Schools sponsored Ms. Niles through her fellowship, supported the development of the charter application, and housed the start-up of the school. Prior to New Leaders, Ms. Niles was the Director of Education Initiatives at The Ball Foundation of Glen Ellyn, IL, an operating foundation that partners with school districts to increase student achievement through systemic reform. Before that, Ms. Niles headed the Charter School Office for the Connecticut State Department of Education where she oversaw all aspects of the charter school program and led a multi-disciplinary team to create the accountability system. Ms. Niles also taught middle school and high school science and directed service learning programs at schools in California and Massachusetts. Ms. Niles holds a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, a Masters in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Management, and a Masters of Science in Public Administration with a focus on Educational Administration from Trinity University (DC).
E.L Haynes Public Charter School
Humanitas Director, Los Angeles Education Partnership
"We work both outside of schools to engage parents and community, and within schools as a collaborative partner, bringing ideas, resources and expertise to ensure that underserved students have the resources and support they need to succeed. Our efforts foster excellent schools, great teachers, and engaged communities. Please join us in pursuit of excellence in Los Angeles area schools." Los Angeles Education Partnership
President of the Public Education Network
Wendy D. Puriefoy is a nationally recognized expert on issues of school reform and civil society. Ms. Puriefoy is well known for her passionate advocacy of education equity for poor and disadvantaged children and has written and spoken extensively on the issues.
Ms. Puriefoy has been president of Public Education Network (PEN), the nation’s largest network of community-based school reform organizations, since PEN was founded in 1991. Under her visionary leadership, PEN has grown into a national network of local education funds reaching more than 11 million children in 1,220 school districts and 18,000 schools nationwide. Ms. Puriefoy has been deeply involved in school reform since the 1970’s when she served as a special monitor of the court-ordered desegregation plan for Boston’s public schools. As president of PEN, Ms. Puriefoy has been the leading force behind systemic reform initiatives in school finance and governance, curriculum and assessment, parent involvement, school libraries and school health. With support from national foundations, PEN launched multi-million dollar public engagement initiatives focused on teacher quality, standards and accountability, and schools and community services.
Ms. Puriefoy is also a noted leader in the philanthropic world. Prior to being recruited as president of PEN, Ms. Puriefoy was executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Boston Foundation, a community foundation with an endowment of over $750 million supporting public health/welfare, educational, cultural, environmental, and housing programs in Boston, Massachusetts. Ms. Puriefoy serves on the boards of numerous high-profile national organizations including DEMOS, Hasbro Children’s Foundation, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the National Center for Family Philanthropy. In the past, Ms. Puriefoy served on the boards of FairTest, Jobs for the Future, Milton Hershey School, Ms. Foundation for Women, The PEW Forum on Standards-Based Reform, Women and Philanthropy, the National Charities Information Bureau, the Council on Foundations, Teach for America, Children’s Express, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the Boston Annenberg Challenge. Ms. Puriefoy received a Bachelor of Arts degree from William Smith College and holds three Master of Arts degrees in African American Studies, American Studies, and American Colonial History from Boston University.
Public Education Network
Governor Bob Wise
President of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. He currently cochairs the Digital Learning Council with Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. Governor Wise also chairs the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Since joining the Alliance in February 2005, Governor Wise has become a sought-after speaker and advisor on education issues. He has delivered keynote addresses at high-level functions to core groups of the education community, state and federal government entities, as well as business, philanthropic, civil rights, and community organizations—all with a stake in education reform. Governor Wise has also advised the U.S. Department of Education, White House Transition Team, and frequently testifies before the U.S. Congress. In 2011, Governor Wise was named to The NonProfit Times "Power & Influence Top 50," an annual listing of the fifty most influential executives in the nonprofit sector.
Governor Wise has appeared on national television and radio programs such as World News with Diane Sawyer (ABC), American Morning (CNN), Morning Joe (MSNBC), Fox and Friends (Fox News), Lou Dobbs Tonight (CNN), the Charlie Rose Show (PBS), PBS NewsHour, the Diane Rehm Show (NPR), and Washington Journal (C-SPAN). He has also been featured in publications such as Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Charlotte Observer, among others. He is author of the book Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth And Our Nation.
Under Governor Wise’s leadership, the Alliance continues to build its reputation as a respected authority on high school policy by advocating for reform in America’s secondary education system and working to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and to be contributing members of society. As governor of West Virginia from 2001 to 2005, he fought for and signed legislation to fund the PROMISE Scholarship program, which has helped thousands of West Virginia high school graduates continue their education in the Mountain State. Governor Wise also established a character education curriculum in all state schools and created the Governor’s Helpline for Safer Schools. During his administration, West Virginia saw a significant increase in the number of students completing high school and entering college.
In 2001, Governor Wise proposed salary bonuses for teachers who achieve National Board certification. The proposal was passed and, as a result, helped triple the rate of certified teachers in the state. Additionally, Education Week’s “Quality Counts 2004” report gave West Virginia the highest cumulative grade out of all fifty states. As governor, he was also the first West Virginian to chair the Southern Governors’ Association.
From 1983 to 2001, Governor Wise served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of West Virginia. During his tenure, he worked aggressively to preserve federal financial aid for students to attend college and served as a member on the House Education and Labor Committee. For several terms, he was a member of the Democratic Party Leadership team as a regional whip and as a whip-at-large. Committee assignments during these eighteen years included Transportation and Infrastructure, Government Reform and Organization, and Budget. Governor Wise’s notable congressional accomplishments include the Chemical Right to Know legislation, the Wise Amendment to the Clean Air Act, and the first-ever federal Mental Health Parity legislation.
Governor Wise serves on several boards, committees, and commissions including the Public Education Network’s board of directors, the Springboard Project Commission, the board of trustees of America’s Promise, and the steering committee for the Coalition for a College and Career Ready America. He is an advisory committee member for a number of organizations, including the Campaign for Educational Equity, Editorial Projects in Education, the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, and the National High School Center, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and Office of Special Education Programs and housed at the American Institutes for Research. He also serves on the board of advisors for the Moffitt Cancer Center and the board of directors of C-Change, which works to eliminate cancer as a major public health risk at the earliest possible time.
Alliance for Excellent Education
Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education
Michael K. Yudin was named Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education in July 2011. In this role, he oversees the administration of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), comprised of approximately 275 employees and charged with implementation of over 50 grant programs designed to promote academic excellence and enhance educational opportunities for elementary and secondary school students. Yudin leads efforts to help ensure equal access to services leading to improved outcomes for all children, particularly educationally disadvantaged children. In addition, he is committed to building partnerships with state and local leaders and ensuring they have the necessary technical assistance and support to improve the quality of teaching and learning in America’s classrooms.
Yudin joined the U.S. Department of Education in June 2010 as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives, where he served as a key advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education on the formulation and development of policy related to student achievement and school accountability, academic improvement and teacher quality, math and science, high school reform, early childhood initiatives, and Indian education.
Prior to joining the Department, Yudin spent nine years in the United States Senate, serving as legislative director for Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, senior counsel to Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and HELP Committee counsel to Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont. In these roles, he assisted in developing, promoting, and advancing a comprehensive legislative agenda related to education, children and families, disabilities, competitiveness, and poverty. He helped draft and negotiate various pieces of legislation, including the No Child Left Behind Act, IDEA, the America Competes Act, the Higher Education Act, Head Start, Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, WIA, TANF, and Child Welfare. Before joining the Senate, Yudin served as an attorney at the Social Security Administration and at the U.S. Department of Labor for nearly ten years. In these positions, he provided legal advice on various policy initiatives, including social security, disability, employment, and welfare reform.
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Dewey Hensley, Kentucky Department of Education, explains why strong school leadership is important.
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