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Northview looks to get grades on reform progress

Sylvania's Northview High School is ready to see if it works.

After starting a national school reform initiative two years ago called “High Schools That Work,” a team of about two dozen educational leaders from the state will travel to Northview next week to interview officials, administrators, and students, look at test scores, and examine what changes the school has made since entering the program a year ago.

Northview will get its initial report March 30.

High Schools That Work is designed to help education and government leaders work cooperatively to improve education and in doing so improve a region's social and economic life. The program began in 13 states with the Southern Regional Education Board in 1987.

It has expanded to at least 22 states and more than 970 schools.

With High Schools that Work, Northview has made several major changes:

  • Created an Academic Assistance Center, a learning station for students to attend during study hall to get tutoring in math and English.

  • Started a program to provide a caring and supportive environment for students called “adviser-advisee.”

    Teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors have been assigned 16 students each - four from each grade level. The adult meets with the students individually and as a group to help as an adult role model. The school has 1,261 students.

  • Eliminated the detention hall system for a demerit system, Formerly a student was sent to detention after school for 45 minutes.

    Now, a student gets a demerit for misbehavior. After a student get three demerits, he or she has to attend Saturday school from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

    The school had 561 fewer referrals to the office, principal Mr. Gorman said.

    Northview officials are expecting to learn that the school is on the right track.

    However, they believe the school's traditional class schedule is problematic.

    “Our current time schedule is strangling many of the current initiatives we are trying to accomplish,” Northview Principal Kevin Gorman said last week.

    The schedule limits the number of electives a student can take, and time is not available for teachers to collaborate, he said.

    “The research says you should be spending more time, in depth, with subjects,” Mr. Gorman said. The High Schools That Works program says you should have “more time on task” with students, he said. Northview was already trying to do that.

    Northview faculty have voted twice against pursuing a different schedule - called an X-block - that would have fewer, but longer, classes a day to give students more time on each subject.

    Using an $80,000 grant in 1999, Northview started High Schools That Work and shared it with Whitmer High School. They shared speakers and conferences.

    Whitmer is scheduled to have the team visit in mid-May with the program.

    “We have added three hours of staff development a month for teachers,” Whitmer principal Casey Reason said last week.

    Whitmer is looking into constructing tests with critical thinking responses instead of just memorizing formulas, answering true and false, or having multiple-choice questions.

    Meanwhile, Sylvania's Southview High School has made the decision to try High Schools That Work. The school is in the planning stage. They will start the program itself next year.

    In Toledo, Bowsher High School has received a $21,000 grant to begin the program and Scott High School is checking into the program as well.

    “It [High Schools That Work] was written up in Education Week as one of the five best high school initiatives,” Mr. Gorman said. “It allowed us to look at our data and make curricular decisions based on data,” he said.

    In the program, the school also surveyed 100 students in career technology and at random. With the survey, the district found, among other things:

  • 81 percent felt the teachers were competent and made lessons interesting.

  • 32 percent thought they could pass the course without doing all the work.

  • 63 percent work 20 hours or more per week.

  • 53 percent could not see the connection or apply the material learned at school to relevant work situations.

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