School Redesign: 2 Solutions that Support District Goals for Student Achievement

By Abner Oakes

ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement


Districts approach high school reform in several ways.  One approach is to develop a number of new schools of choice, providing multiple options for students and their parents.  But in districts where school choice is challenging due to neighborhood school assignments, an alternative approach to smaller schools of choice is the redesign and restructuring of an existing high school into small schools or small learning communities. ISA’s New School Development solution is a gradual process that creates new small schools, including theme schools, as well as Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, starting with the 9th grade and adding a grade per year, taking four school years to fully complete the implementation. Districts often choose this option if they are looking to add innovative and diverse schools to their district portfolio, particularly schools with a new culture and norms and practices designed for student success.  . An ISA leadership coach supports the new principal to fully incorporate ISA’s seven principles and tackle the issues common to new school start-ups.  Content coaches work with teachers to implement rigorous, inquiry-based, college prep instruction.

Victory Collegiate High School is an example of a successful new school developed by ISA. Download this case study to learn more about Victory Collegiate High School’s journey to comprehensive student success.

ISA’s Restructuring Schools solution is used by districts to restructure large high schools into small schools or small learning communities (SLCs). Incoming freshman attend one of several new small schools, usually on the same campus, and upperclassmen attend a Senior Academy.  This continues through three years until the transition is completed, leaving multiple new schools with a fresh culture, structured for success.  All students benefits from a rigorous academic program, preparing them for college success.  Atlanta, GA’s New Schools at Carver are an example of the power of this strategy. Hemorrhaging students to other schools and districts, Atlanta used ISA’s Restructuring Solution to offer exciting educational options and personalized environments. Students and families’ experiences were so positive, that enrollment steadily increased as the community’s confidence in their local school increased. Within a few years, students from outside the Carver boundaries were clamoring for admission!

ISA’s solution to restructuring struggling mid-sized and small schools is exemplified by Park East High School, which in 2001 was struggling to engage students. In partnership with ISA, Park East implemented ISA’s proven Distributed Counseling model to enact personalization, and faculty and school leaders worked together to implement community-building strategies to engage and encourage students to attend school. Learn more about Park East High School’s successes here.