On January 8, students at Kingsthorpe College in Northampton, UK were privileged and honoured to meet with Matthew Barzun, United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Court of St James. Ambassador Barzun (center in the above photo), joined school leaders and EdisonLearning UK’s Managing Director Tim (far right).
Along with Michael Ellis, Member of Parliament, Ambassador Barzun visited the College to listen to the views of students about international relations with the USA and to discuss global issues that are important to them. The Ambassador explained to students that their feedback would be collated and shared directly with the U.S. President, Barack Obama. Students had the opportunity for real dialogue with the U.S. Ambassador and they were able to express their views at the very highest level.
The session began with students sharing their perceptions of the U.S. The Ambassador also asked students for their opinions on which foreign policy issues were most important to them and was keen to know what concerns they had about the U.S; students came up with a varied and thought-provoking list. Topics included: Middle East peace, the UK in the EU, the military, gun laws, the involvement of the US in international relations, healthcare, foreign policy, the U.S. Constitution, and international trade. The Ambassador was impressed with the students’ knowledge about US history and politics and thanked them for their feedback.
Kingsthorpe College, a member of The Collaborative Academies Trust with EdisonLearning UK, has a strong partnership with a number of schools in the USA, especially the Magic Johnson Academy in Bridgeton, New Jersey.
Commenting on the visit, Principal Debbie Morrison said: “We are truly privileged to have had a visit from the U.S. Ambassador, Matthew Barzun, who was keen to engage with our students and to reinforce for them the ethos of Kingsthorpe College– that every student has the potential to make a really positive difference in the world.”
GARY — Thirteen members of Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy’s National Honor Society are planning to attend a leadership convention in Orlando, Fla. in mid-January. The students have been working diligently to make the trip a reality, however, they have encountered a financial challenge that may be too great to overcome.
"With the burden of having to raise enough money and manage school work on top of other countless responsibilities, the students have been faced with numerous challenges," said teacher and NHS advisor Jamie Wolverton.
Matayzia Hughes, ranked No. 2 academically in her class, aspires to a career as a forensic psychologist. She believes the trip will benefit her by introducing her to people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
“I feel the convention will give me practical leadership experience,” she said.
Students must meet astringent eligibility requirements to be accepted into the NHS — a 3.3 or above grade-point average, community service hours, and participation in service learning projects.
Princess Tucker, ranked at the top of her graduating class, has worked hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA while serving as co-president, with Hughes, of Roosevelt's NHS chapter. “I believe that having the privilege to attend the convention will be an eye-opening experience. It will enable me to make my success become a reality,” added Tucker, who plans to become an anesthesiologist.
"The students of Roosevelt’s NHS have set goals for themselves, all while staying on the right track," Wolverton said.
Junior Robbie Benson said: “I’ve personally had friends who decided to drop out of school. I have friends who are teen parents, as well as friends who made bad decisions. But I don’t let that take a toll on myself or my education.”
With Wolverton's encouragement, fundraisers, and donations from local businesses such as Charmeuse Lime, Wal-Mart, Robinson’s Ribs, and Powers & Son’s Construction, the NHS members have earned a large portion of the funds needed for the trip.
"There’s still more on their plate' so they won’t be easing up any time soon," Wolverton said.
The outcomes of EdisonLearning’s seventh annual UK Head Teacher survey have been released today. The survey, which is conducted as part of the company’s ISO9001 accredited quality management system, provides a detailed perspective on how the Partner Schools Programme is helping schools to more effectively meet the needs of their learners.
The survey provides a series of quantitative indicators that evidence both the progress that schools are making and the changes in confidence and capacity that schools perceive from their engagement in the Partner Schools Programme. It also provides qualitative evidence of a growing confidence across head teachers who feel better prepared to meet the ever-rising demands placed on them as school leaders.
Key outcomes from the 2015 head teacher survey:
- 100% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their school had made progress as a result of their partnership with EdisonLearning (78% strongly agreed).
- 100% agreed or strongly agreed that leadership development had had a marked impact on the school (83% strongly agreed).
- 100% agreed or strongly agreed that their school was better prepared for external audit (eg. inspection or local authority review) (65% strongly agreed).
- 96% agreed or strongly agreed that the partnership with EdisonLearning offered good value for money (65% strongly agreed).
- All of these indicators showed improvements on the 2014 survey.
Qualitative feedback from respondents included the following:
“Even staff who have not previously held a key leadership role are enthusiastic and feel empowered.”
“The distributed leadership model has ensured that all staff have a clear and shared vision for the development of the school as well as shared responsibility for leading this. This, in turn, has increased motivation, and led to the development of in-depth professional dialogue about the direction of the school based on relationships grounded in mutual trust and respect.”
On the Learning Environment:
“The introduction of Core Values has had a transformational impact on behaviour and behaviour for learning.”
“Class learning forums have been very effective for giving children the language to talk about their learning – we now need to get that into every area of school life.”
On Assessment for Learning:
“During Achievement team meetings – shared conversations help us to develop the finer points of children’s learning.”
“Achievement teams, accelerated learning sequences, peer coaching and mentoring based on the achievement statements are working interactively to affect a powerful and productive professional learning ethos which is impacting on teaching and learning.”
On Pedagogy and Curriculum:
“The introduction of the QFLT to support teaching and learning has changed the way that staff think about their professional development.”
“We have reinvigorated our curriculum using the connected curriculum and the core learning skills. Subjects that were previously neglected are now back on the agenda!”
On Student and Family Support:
“TLCs [Termly Learning Conferences] have had a remarkable impact on parental engagement at Parents Evenings.”
“..the biggest impact on learners and their families- wow staff love it”
The Virginian Pilot
Norfolk, VA -- Still a high school sophomore at 18, Shalya Lancaster struggled to stay on track to graduate. She juggled day classes at Lake Taylor High School with two night courses at Granby High last year. She still had five of six required state exams to pass. "It was very stressful," she said.
Lancaster wanted to catch up, but she struggled to find the motivation she had before her mother died eight years ago. She fell behind, in part, because of negative peer pressure. "When I got to ninth grade, I thought it was fun skipping school," she said. "So I kept doing the same thing, the same thing every year."
Her attendance and grades plummeted. Being so far behind at the point when most peers are graduating, she planned to drop out. But a counselor told her about the school division's newest program, the Open Campus for dropouts and students who have fallen behind. Lancaster left Lake Taylor and in September began taking online classes at the new school in the Coronado area, on Widgeon Road. Students study on computers in one main lab along with participating in small-group instructional sessions.
On a fast track, Lancaster could earn her eight remaining credits in a year, or a little longer if she runs into any academic snags. Either way, she's now more likely to get a diploma.
The Open Campus has been touted as a graduation game-changer, giving students a second chance to earn diplomas - not just a General Educational Development equivalency certificate - and helping to boost the division's lagging graduation rates.
The program is part of the Transformation Initiative, a divisionwide improvement plan the School Board adopted last year. The division partnered with the private EdisonLearning and Magic Johnson Bridgescape operate the program, though other components add to the cost. The companies operate similar programs throughout the country, though evaluators didn't compare Norfolk's to those.
State Del. Daun Hester, a former teacher and Norfolk City Council member, serves as the school's executive director. Norfolk provides other staff and resources.
The school opened in October 2014, with spots for 100 dropouts and about 25 students considered older than the typical age for their grade levels. With a rolling enrollment, about 200 participated at some point during the year. About 20 graduated in the spring. School leaders haven't set an annual graduation goal.
The program targets students on the fringes, and they come to school with more than academic problems.
Lancaster needed to work to help support herself and her family. She's moved with relatives three times since her mother died. "Eventually, I was like, I'm just tired. I gotta do something with my life. I can't depend on nobody to do nothing for me," she said. "I'm going to just come back to school and just do whatever I have to do, no matter what."
Now she works full time at McDonald's while attending morning or afternoon sessions at the school. She can check out a computer to work on courses at home when needed. Teachers cheer her on when she gets tired or frustrated. "They help you; they're very supportive," she said.
Lancaster's experiences echo program successes outlined in an evaluation compiled by Old Dominion University researchers. The School Board recently discussed the findings, which showed promising data about helping vulnerable students. But the school also faced difficulties in its first year.
There were fights and other discipline problems, and on-site attendance hovered around 40 percent. The division chose novice teachers to instruct some of its most challenged students. Most teachers of the program's core content - English, math, science and social studies - had less than three years' experience. Although the program provides online courses, the teachers felt the students could benefit from more direct, small-group instruction, according to the report.
Teachers generally spoke favorably about their experiences but said they could benefit from more training and professional support. On any given day, they teach various topics across grade levels. The program could use more teachers, especially to help with reading, the report said.
Many students struggle to read beyond an elementary level, according to the report. The majority of students came in classified as sophomores, while others just needed to pass the Standards of Learning exams required to graduate. The school noted over-age students passed only one SOL exam, and school leaders plan to explore other options for those students.
Open Campus students face significant family and social hardships, including incarceration, homelessness, children and financial difficulties.
A host of support services contribute to students' success, the report said. Teachers facilitate advisory groups, community partners provide job opportunities and parenting and prenatal resources, and the division helps with transportation among other things not usually offered in an alternative education setting.
Some students still struggle to make it to school despite the support. Hester will track down wayward students in their neighborhoods or on their jobs. They still need guidance even though they're young adults, she said. "I see the kids' needs," she said. "They want to be successful. They don't, maybe, necessarily know how."
Hester acknowledged the difficulty in leading a school and serving as a state delegate. She'll be gone when the General Assembly convenes in mid-January through mid-March. She won't get paid while she's away. "The foundation is set before I go, and the expectations they know," she said.
At Open Campus, students take two courses at a time and complete at least 10 online lessons each day. But there is no specific time frame for students to graduate, just that it occurs before they "age out" of public school at 20, depending on their classification. The option of earning a diploma - compared with a GED - motivated students to attend the program, the report said.
Statistical credit when they do graduate goes to their "home" school, the one they were assigned to before attending Open Campus. That's because the state Education Department considers Open Campus a program, not a separate school. That arrangement is not uncommon in Norfolk or the state but has raised questions about accountability because schools get credit for students not enrolled in them.
Along with highlighting successes, the evaluators made several recommendations, including better recruitment and identification efforts, more scheduling options and on-site child care to boost attendance, teacher training and interactive learning. The program also connects students with college and career opportunities once they graduate.
Elizabeth Rice, who needed 10 credits when she enrolled, finished the program and plans to take part in a graduation ceremony later this year. Rice said she doesn't think she could have earned a diploma without Open Campus. "I struggled a lot in high school," she said.
Rice plans to attend Tidewater Community College, where she earned a scholarship. She wants to study nursing and psychology. Of all the things to be happy about, she's most proud to be "finally seeing myself doing something good for my life."
Division leaders have discussed expanding the program while focusing on the problems that contribute to the dropout rate in the first place. It's too early to tell whether the program is the most effective way to achieve academic and graduation goals for vulnerable students, they said.
For now, they're taking it one student at a time.
The Norfolk (VA) Public School Board commissioned an independent study of the District’s Open Campus / Magic Johnson Bridgescape Program. The report, conducted by Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, and the Center for Educational Partnerships determined that “overall the program is a success.”
Below are key findings from the Formative Evaluation of the Norfolk Public Schools’ Open Campus High School Program:
- The Norfolk Public Schools’ Open Campus High School (OCHS) program is intended to assist school drop-outs and overage-for-grade students earn a regular high school diploma in an alternative setting.
- OCHS offers two half-day sessions per day, during which students primarily participate in the Magic Johnson Bridgescape program, which provides computer-mediated and small group instruction. The Norfolk program is unique among its counterparts nationally in that the Bridgescape programs in other cities do not serve overage-for-grade students.
- The program provides a caring and supportive environment for students.
- Over 90% of students reported that they like attending OCHS, respect their teachers, and believe that their teachers care about them.
- The program was clearly most successful in serving students who were fairly close to achieving graduation at the time they dropped out of school. The students were also more motivated to engage in the program as evidenced by higher lesson completion rates.
- The core program model is responsive to the needs of the students being served.
- Students were motivated to enroll in the program for a number of reasons.
- They clearly desired a regular high school diploma versus other alternatives such as a GED.
- They strongly valued being able to work at their own pace, getting 1:1 assistance from teachers, flexible scheduling, and being able to see their own progress.
- Students mentioned community-based recruitment, program publicity on local news, and family encouragement as factors that influenced their decision to enroll.
- Individualization of learning and program structure provided important and effective supports for students. Self-pacing, intensive academic support from teachers, scaffolded curricula, careful progress monitoring, and selective curricular focus were identified as effective strategies for individualizing learning.
- Helpful structural elements included flexible scheduling, a small environment, and provision of wrap-around services. Students exhibited positive self-expectations, including a strong expectation that they could indeed graduate and positive and realistic perceptions of their own progress in the program.