Policy interest in the challenge of improving urban high schools has grown recently, as high-profile business leaders and politicians have called the preparedness of graduates for college work into question. The National Governor's Association and President Bush have cited high school reform as a top education priority. Across the nation, foundations, large and small, are attempting to finance a revolution to push the archaic world of secondary education into the 21st century. Still, the majority of urban high school students - those served in large comprehensive high schools - have yet to benefit from their new high profile among politicians and reform funders. The purpose of this report is to lay out an action agenda for large comprehensive high schools and to clarify what needs to happen at the school, district and state levels in order for sustainable change to take effect. This report highlights the lessons that comprehensive high schools must heed in enacting improvement efforts and provides promising examples of urban high schools that are making it possible for all students to achieve at high levels. The report explores three interrelated pieces of the reform puzzle, each of which is an essential component of whole school improvement. They are:
- Personalizing the learning environment;
- Building teacher capacity, and
- Setting and meeting high expectations for all students.
This report builds on the December 2003 Rennie Center report, Head of the Class, which detailed the characteristics of higher performing urban high schools in Massachusetts. Scaling Up continues the work of Head of the Class by addressing the question of how we can take the lessons of urban high schools to scale. Throughout the report, recommendations are provided for leaders at the school, district and state levels. Some report recommendations include:
- Provide ongoing opportunities for teachers to collaborate and engage in high quality, content-based professional development at the school level.
- Create a sense of urgency at the district level around improvement based on student data.
- Commit resources to urban high school improvement at the state level.