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High Schools Redesign with "Breaking Ranks II"


At the heart of high school reform is the rigor and relevancy of the work within the classroom.   The Coalition of Essential Schools addresses this need for rigor and relevancy through the Theory of Change Model.   The Consortium for Policy Research in Education reports four elements are needed for successful school reform: clear ambitious goals matched with the high standards of student achievement, change in instructional practice, intense professional development and accountability that focuses on measurable increases in student learning.   CES works with high schools in each of these four areas.

Clear academic goals based on data serve as the core of the work within the classroom.   Breaking Ranks II requires high schools to identify a set of essential learnings; CES helps schools achieve this through curriculum alignment using the standards from the Michigan Framework as a foundational piece.   Mike Schmoker's process for action research helps individuals and groups of teachers utilize the Cycle of Inquiry to continually improve the rigor of every student.   One of the CES principles is that "the school's goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals vary as those students themselves vary."    This is compatible with Breaking Rank II's recommendation that schools work toward eliminating tracking.   The Cycle of Inquiry continually presses teachers to make databased decisions, learn and implement research based best practices and be held accountable for improving the achievement of students.   It also requires teachers to continually look for and implement the best instructional strategies.   Teachers are supported through intense professional development as well as Collaborating for Student Success groups.
 
The Coalition trains and helps implement Collaborating for Student Success teacher groups.  These small professional learning communities examine student work to strengthen classroom instruction in a variety of ways.   First of all, teachers utilize the Standards of Instruction and Assessment set forth in the Michigan Curriculum Framework.   As teachers look for evidence of these standards in students' work, they are continually studying and receiving professional development in research-based best practice structures and strategies.   Using Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar's work on the structures of classrooms as a framework, teachers learn of best practice strategies supported by the work of Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde as well as Marzano.   Department grouping is often discouraged in the Collaborating for Student Success groups to encourage integration of curriculum; use of Essential Question in the development of the curriculum alignment also helps with integration.   This integration is also encouraged in Breaking Ranks II which recommends both real world experiences as well as teachers who have a broad base of academic knowledge.

 

The CES use of the standards of instruction and assessment as well as the Common Principle which encourages "principals and teachers to perceive themselves as generalists first...and specialists second" to promote these goals.  CES believes that the most essential of its Common Principles is "focus on helping young people learn to use their minds well."    To this end, the school with CES support is continually examining through the collection of data how this goal is achieved. The end result of all CES work is to get teachers to focus on student achievement through shared norms and values, collaboration, making practice public, and reflective dialogue.  This is reflected in all of the work set forth in the CES Theory of Change Model:creating a student achievement vision, using the Cycle of Inquiry model for continual improvement of academic goals, learning and implementing best practice structures and strategies, improving classroom management and involving parents and community in the school.
 
The CES Theory of Change Model provides a framework for educators to meet the recommendations set forth in Breaking Ranks II.   The success is in the support provided through professional development and coaching for high schools to set goals, change instructional practices and hold themselves accountable for the increase of student achievement.




 
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