22 \ STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT GCS high schools should consider offering AP classes in year long, 90-minute blocks for students who lack prerequisite skills. together, content and career teachers can develop the instructional shifts needed to engage students in solving more complex problems, both abstract and applied. Share accountability for students’ literacy, mathematical and technical skills with teachers in all academic areas and career pathways. SHORT AND LONG TERM RECOMMENDATIONS 1. Revisit the district’s mission statement and clearly define what the district means by academic college readiness, academic career readiness and technical career readiness. Work with postsecondary and employer partners to define college and career readiness. • This recommendation entails determining what it means to be academically college-ready, including establishing the literacy and math benchmarks students must meet to enter into a transfer program at a community and technical college or a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year institution without the need to take remedial courses. Determining this will require GCS to develop partnerships with the twoand four-year institutions that enroll the majority of GCS students. −− Further, GCS must develop a set of assessments and metrics that will be used to determine college readiness at grade 11 (e.g., SAT, ACT, college placement exams, GPA). −− Set as a goal that GCS will work toward 80 percent of students graduating college-ready, careerready or both. 2. GCS must hold each elementary, middle, and high school accountable for increasing annual growth in student achievement at each educational level—including at grades 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11—with the goal of 80 percent of students graduating college-ready, career-ready or both. • GCS must establish a system to determine annual growth in the percentage of students who are on track to meet college- and careerreadiness benchmarks at each educational level. GCS should set target growth goals for annual percentage increases. • Define academic career readiness and technical career readiness, and set a goal to increase the percentage of students who meet academic career readiness benchmarks, tracking progress by pathway and school. −− Career pathway students who meet literacy and math benchmarks at the end of 11th grade could be said to be academically career ready. These benchmarks should be set on assessments—like the ACT— that are negotiated by the district and its postsecondary partners. −− GCS can establish academic career readiness benchmarks that measure the level of foundational literacy and math skills needed to earn an advanced credential. Some states use the Silver level on the WorkKeys as a measure of academic career readiness. The Silver level signifies that students have the foundational literacy and math skills needed to succeed in about 66 percent of subbaccalaureate jobs. −− GCS tests over 95 percent of its CTE concentrators. Currently, 54 percent of GCS career pathway students met Silver and 69 percent met Silver or higher, although percentages vary from school to school and from pathway to pathway. 3. Define technical career readiness as passing a credible industry certification exam that offers a hiring advantage, has been validated by employers and carries transferable postsecondary credit. • Credible industry credentials help students earn college credits, enroll in and complete postsecondary education and training programs, and secure jobs paying at least $32,000 to $52,000 a year. Postsecondary and employer partners must be involved in selecting these credentials. 4. Develop a set of proven design principles for school, curricular, instructional and leadership practices in elementary, middle and high schools that reflect the changes that must occur for 80 percent of students to be college-ready, career-ready or both. • At present, the district lacks an overarching framework of school and instructional practices with which elementary, middle and high schools can design their own school improvement plans. • Adopt a framework for reorganizing the most challenged high schools around career-themed academies that prepare students for both college and careers. 5. In order to address equity issues, GCS will need to require high schools to work toward achieving parity in the percentage of students of color who enroll in Honors, AP and IB programs, and schools will need to work to increase the percentage of students of color who pass AP/IB exams.
STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT \ 23 • GCS high schools should consider offering AP classes in year long, 90-minute blocks for students who lack prerequisite skills. Teachers will need more time to develop students’ ability to read, comprehend and analyze grade-level materials. This recommendation seeks to increase access and success for students of color, those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, or others who may need extra time and support to pass AP exams. 6. Adopt a middle grades school improvement framework that supports schools in which less than 50 percent of eighth graders score at Level 4 or 5 on end-of-grade exams in reading, math and science. Middle grades schools following this framework should: • Ensure that all students are engaged in assignments aligned to gradelevel standards. • Use literacy and math strategies to advance students’ subject-area achievement. • Emphasize a balanced approach to math instruction in which students develop procedural fluency, conceptual understanding, math reasoning skills and the ability to apply math to real-world problems. • Require and support inquiry-based science. • Engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects and assignments that enhance students’ literacy skills. • Encourage and engage students’ curiosity, creative thinking and problem-solving skills. • Help struggling students get on track for college and career readiness by: −− adopting an accelerated curriculum that includes extended learning time −− identifying students who are not on track by the beginning of grade 6 −− ensuring that struggling students are experiencing a rich, challenging curriculum −− extending learning time to help struggling students meet gradelevel standards • Help students explore their interests, aptitudes and educational and career goals through in-school and out-ofschool learning activities. • Support school leaders as they work with faculty to advance indepth knowledge of curricular and instructional strategies, and use resources, time and money to support teachers in becoming more effective. • Set a goal that middle grades students will demonstrate that they can read, comprehend and analyze grade-level text and documents by the end of eighth grade. 7. Ask middle grades schools and high schools to increase the percentage of students who enroll in and pass Honors classes. 8. At present, the “regular’ curriculum is not a challenging, collegepreparatory curriculum. Teachers will need support to engage all students with the kinds of intellectually demanding assignments given in Honors classes that will enhance their readiness for college and careers. 9. Realign the allotment of special education teachers to account for the number of students with disabilities, as well as the degree and intensity of supports and services required. Provide access to a framework of instructional practices and strategies that will improve teacher and leadership capacity and decrease the achievement gap between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. 10. Adopt and implement consistent, district-wide curriculum that is aligned to college and career ready standards and has been vetted by content experts. The curriculum should create the floor, not the ceiling, for learning at every grade level and in every course. Develop an implementation plan that clearly indicates what the district holds tightly and requires in every classroom, and acknowledges where schools and teachers have autonomy. • Define a process for refining and improving curriculum based on the feedback collected from teachers and administrators as well as student achievement and student work data. 11. Develop a strategy to implement a clear, coherent and aligned system of high quality assessments. Specific recommendations include: • Refine the district assessment system to include common, formative assessments administered approximately every six (6) weeks. • Purchase common formative assessments to ensure validity in assessment design (including the ability to conduct item analysis) and reduce labor costs related to paying teachers to design assessments.