Since 1987 and the landmark report on education, A Nation at Risk, educators, politicians, philanthropists, and community leaders have been on a quest for the magic formula, the easily replicated recipe, the silver bullet that will transform education in the United States once and for all and turn dreams of educational equity and excellence into reality. ISA, however, has relentlessly followed where research and best professional practice have led us. In doing so, we have been able to design an effective model for whole school reform that consistently produces significantly improved results, especially for traditionally underperforming urban school students. ISA’s designation by the US Department of Education (USDOE) as an evidence-based whole school reform approach was based on an evaluation study by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and a comprehensive narrative submitted to the USDOE detailing the ISA whole school reform model. The AED study met the What Works Clearinghouse rigorous standards.
The ISA approach is a capacity building one defined and guided by its seven research-based principles that are operationalized in the school’s organizational, instructional, counseling, and parent involvement components. Much of the power of the ISA whole school reform model lies in its three Cs: connectivity, coherence, and collective capacity. [Read more.]
In this issue of the ISA Newsletter, we focus on why the ISA approach is a powerful whole school reform model. Also, see from a principal’s perspective what the ISA model looks like in action and why it works to create and sustain positive improvement in every aspect of the high school context. Additionally, enjoy reading about what their high experience has meant to two graduates of ISA partner high schools who have completed college and are achieving success in their chosen careers.
Gerry House, Ed.D.
Academy for Young Writers:
Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize
Courtney Winkfield is the second principal of the nine-year-old Academy for Young Writers and was one of the school’s founding English teachers. In 2014 the Daily News listed the Academy for Young Writers among the top high schools in the NYC Department of Education.
The nine-year-old Academy for Young Writers in Brooklyn, NY exemplifies the nature of ISA’s successful school partnerships. A shared core philosophy and pedagogy are the foundation upon which the partners build to create and sustain a high performing school. “We chose ISA as our partner,” says Principal Courtney Winkfield,” because we believed in their seven research-based key principles, their concept of school as a connected community of adults and students, and their rigorous, inquiry-based model of teaching and learning within and across disciplines. Their approach to school design was not limited to procedures and schedules, the technical aspects. It was research-based, created deep, sustainable change in every aspect and at all levels of school life, and was comprehensive, not fragmented.”
In keeping with the ISA principle of building relationships and personalization, every student has an adult advisor and a cohort of core content area teachers and a counselor who remain with their same group of students throughout each school year. “Our teachers know our students deeply,” Principal Winkfield emphasizes. This process, called distributed counseling, creates strong, long-term connections between students and their teachers and counselor and ensures that a core group of adults is consistently engaged with students and families throughout each of their high school years. This advisory team is knowledgeable about students’ needs and how to best meet them; they are also able to provide early, effective intervention when required. Winkfield credits the student-teacher advisory process with helping her students and their families successfully navigate the college admissions process, especially in situations where the student may be a first generation college enrollee. “Many educators may not be aware of the powerful body of research that validates the impact of the teacher-student relationship on increased student performance, but we have experienced it first hand,” the principal says, “and know that our students would not achieve as much academically without this strong bond between them and their teachers and counselors.” [Read the full story.]
ISA College Grads:
A Living Legacy
Brandon Baiden and Monica Moore are both 2008 alumni of ISA partner high schools, Queens High School of Teaching and Brooklyn Preparatory High School respectively. Baiden, a graduate of State University of New York at Stony Brook, is an assistant producer for the Wendy Williams Show. Moore, a graduate of DePauw University, is a first-grade teacher in Baltimore.
Monica Moore and Brandon Baiden are living proof that the type of high school education that you get can matter for a lifetime. Both of these outstanding young adults credit their experiences at ISA partner high schools with the opportunities that they have been able to take advantage of since high school graduation. Both emphatically believe that their school’s strong academic program prepared them to do well in college and in their chosen careers. “I hated middle school and was not a good middle school student,” Baiden explains, “but I loved everything about high school and was successful. If I had gone to the typical high school, I would not be where I am now. “ Moore, who was in the first class to graduate from Brooklyn Preparatory High School, agrees. “I had a choice of high schools, and I am so glad that I made the best choice,” she said.
Both of their high school experiences reflect one of the core principles of the ISA model, college preparatory teaching and learning for all students. “Our teachers fully engaged us in the lessons each day,” explains Baiden. “As a high school student, I had to explain my actions and choices, design projects and presentations to demonstrate what I had learned and how I could apply that knowledge to solve problems or respond to situations. I am not the best test- taker, so it was very important to me to be able to demonstrate what I was learning in a variety of ways.” Moore recalls how her high schools’ hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning mathematics made a tremendous difference for her. “We actually wrote a lot in math class,” she said. “The way that we were taught math helped me make sense of higher level mathematical concepts and see the connections to so many applications in the real world. Our teachers always helped us understand how to use a particular math skill or technique. If one method did not work, they would try another one. If we needed more time, or a different method of learning, that’s what we got.”
[Read the full story.]
The Odds Are
In Their Favor
If a school’s student demographics are: 72% Black, 23% Hispanic, 1% White, and 1% Asian and 90% free/reduced lunch eligible, the odds are assumed to be against their students achieving academic and lifelong success. However, the students and alumni of the Academy for Young Writers (AFYW) are proving that the right school experience can help all students overcome the odds and triumph. The AFYW staff and school community, in partnership with the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA), have created a high performing sixth through twelfth grade school where the data tell a story that stands in stark contrast to the one that too often holds true for urban schools that serve predominantly low income and students of color.
Unlike many of its counterparts, AFYW is a school where:
• 80% of students graduate in four years. This rate is 12 points higher than the city and borough averages of 68%.
• 100% of the 2014 graduating class enrolled in two or four year colleges
• 85% of parents logged into the online system (Skedula) to view their child’s reports
• 100% of students, regardless of achievement level, visit colleges
Additionally, AFYW ranks in the top 15% of all NYC public schools in moving students in the lowest third citywide to college level in English, which means that these students pass the Regents with a score of 75 or higher. The school’s exemplary performance also earned it the highest rating of Well-Developed in each category of the 2015 NYC DOE Quality Review. AFYW is proof positive that it’s not where you start but where you finish that matters, and their students are unquestionably winning the race for excellence in school and in life.
The Bards of Chelsea
Drama students from Hudson High School staged pop-up performances of Shakespeare's greatest hits in their Chelsea neighborhood. Under the direction of teacher Michael Ponella, students staged scenes from Romeo & Julie, Hamlet, and other Shakespeare greats for passers by on the neighborhood streets. New York One's TV crew was there to capture the news.
What Works Clearinghouse
The Institute for Student Achievement model has been federally approved as an evidence-based whole school reform model, with at least one study that meets the What Works Clearinghouse criteria. ISA's model may be used now in federally funded School Improvement Grants and is the only approved whole school reform model for high schools!
ISA in the News
ISA’s Hudson High School of Learning Technologies’ Principal Nancy Amling is featured in the May ’15 issue of eSchool News! Read her thoughts on the role of cellphones in the classroom.