31 struggling La. high schools set to collaborate on plans for improvement

31 struggling La. high schools set to collaborate on plans for improvement
Source: WAFB

Information from the Louisiana Department of Education

BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of Education, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, today announced the launch of the Louisiana High School Redesign Cohort, a network of 31 high schools across the state that will work together to rethink the core components of their high school design.

The redesign cohort, which involves alternative, charter and traditional public schools from both urban and rural school systems, will provide an opportunity for select high schools to collaborate with their peers and national experts on how to reimagine both school structure and services to boost positive student outcomes and prepare graduates for college and career.

"In order for students to be ready for our 21st Century economy, high schools need to prepare every student for postsecondary success," said State Superintendent John White. "Yet given the diverse needs of learners, our high schools are often challenged with identifying the appropriate courses, high-impact postsecondary pathways and supports needed to guide their success. This is an opportunity for the state's most struggling schools to come together, with their peers and with national experts, to develop a comprehensive strategy for improvement."

Johns Hopkins University's School of Education will help guide the cohort. The School, through its Everyone Graduates Center and Talent Development Secondary initiative, has spent 22 years working with schools across the nation to focus their redesign plans on examining and rebuilding four key structures. Those structures, which are supported by extensive research, include:

  • Instructional quality. Schools must use the highest quality curricula available, and teachers must be trained on the implementation of this curricula. In addition, high schools need to develop the appropriate remediation structures to support students who are academically behind.
  • Postsecondary pathways. Schools must provide students with various avenues toward graduation, including Jump Start pathways, dual enrollment and IB, AP and/or CLEP offerings, in order to support the diverse needs of students.
  • Student supports. Students must have access to academic counseling that helps them plot their path to graduation and beyond. Students need support with college applications, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, job interviews and internship opportunities.
  • Organizing adults to maximize impact. Adults must be organized in a way that allows for them to have responsibility for a common set of students and must have time to collaborate and plan for the needs of those students.

"We are thrilled to partner with Louisiana Department of Education and the participating schools from across the state to use evidence-based strategies to design high schools to better serve their students and communities in the 21st Century," said Robert Balfanz, director of the Center's Cross-State High School Redesign Collaborative. "Together, we will support the participating schools in the selection and implementation of a customized set of effective practices that reflect the specific needs of each school and work together to more deeply engage students in learning, increase teacher capacity to successfully teach all students, create a joyful and exciting learning environment for students and teachers, and provide all students with a pathway to postsecondary success."

In order to be eligible to participate in the initial cohort, a school had to be labeled by the state as Comprehensive Intervention Required, a classification referring to any school with a high rate of low-income families rated "D" or "F" for three consecutive years or with a graduation rate less than 67 percent, or provide the state with data that pointed to them needing additional support and guidance, and submit an application. Thirty-one schools applied and were selected. Additional high schools, as well as alternative middle schools, will be included in future cohorts.

Participating schools will create a school-based redesign team of no more than five individuals, including the principal, to work together on this project. The team will be responsible for attending two in-person meetings with the entire redesign cohort in July and October of this year and for drafting redesign plans ahead of those meetings to ensure full engagement in the sessions. The team will also complete and submit a final school plan as part of the state's School Redesign Grant application process for the 2019-2020 academic year. If approved, the team will implement the plan that year, share best practices with their peers in the cohort and adjust plans as needed.

Schools will be responsible for their own travel and accommodations for the two in-person meetings, but there will be no other associated costs with cohort membership.

"We are honored to have been selected to participate in the Louisiana High School Redesign Cohort. While Northside High School has shown growth over the last two years, we know there is still plenty of room for more," said Principal Julia Williams. "The Louisiana High School Redesign Cohort gives us an invaluable opportunity to collaborate with our peers around the state who are working in the same environment and who face similar challenges trying to graduate students truly ready for college and career, as well as learn from national experts. We are eager to get started in the learning process ahead of us to transform Northside High School into a school anyone would want their child to attend."

JCFA Executive Director Millie M. Harris agreed: "JCFA-East is a nontraditional charter high school serving students who have previously been unsuccessful in their quest to earn a high school diploma. We are excited for the opportunity to learn new and dynamic approaches to help us transform opportunities for our students as a member of the Louisiana High School Redesign Cohort. Our goal is to implement national best practices, shared through the cohort, that extend learning opportunities for our students through secondary education into postsecondary education and training."