This month our featured “Extreme School” is a Title 1 high school. What’s unusual about it?…… For the first time ever in the 14-year history of school grades in Florida, this high school achieved consecutive grades of “A”.
Never before in the state had a high school with a free and reduced lunch population above 80% been able to earn not just one A, but back-to-back “A’s”. And test scores have been rising every year!
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
When Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and other 20th century mega-rich were looking for a winter vacation spot, they picked the Fort Meyers area. Fort Myers, Florida is popular for its beaches, fishing, golfing and shopping. Originally, Ft. Meyers was all about vacations and tourists. Fort Meyers today has a diverse population and a bustling economy. Like many schools, Dunbar High School reflects the new diverse population changes.
Most schools in Florida with the same percentages of those from poverty as Dunbar High School have struggled. Statewide during the 2010-2011 school year 99.2% of high schools with a student population below 40% Free/Reduced lunch achieved a grade of A or B. Dunbar High School has over 50% students of color and the staff was initially overwhelmed by the changes. By comparison, only 10% of schools above 80% F/R lunch achieved a grade of A (and that was the highest % it had ever been). Dunbar wanted to be one of the exceptions.
School leader Ken Savage said, “I purposefully chose to move to this school because my passion for educational leadership is predominantly driven by a desire to reduce or eliminate poverty. Additionally, I am looking for a system-level impact to affect as many students as possible.” Now, that’s a strong, clear vision! “This is possible and we’re going to do it! This school has not only come a long way, it’s not done yet!” The end result is that never before in state history has a high school with a F/R lunch % above 80% been able to earn not just one A, but back-to-back “A’s.” But Dunbar High did it and here’s HOW they did it.
INSTRUCTION, ASSESSMENT & CURRICULUM:
What made the difference were:
1) Exceptionally dedicated, skilled, relationship-centered teachers placed in highest areas of need.
2) A more detailed understanding of the assessments and tested standards.
3) Research-based/results-driven curricular focus buttressed by high yield teaching strategies.
4) Creating tangible outcomes, that are relevant, for students in the form of the most advanced Technology Industry certifications program in the country (Microsoft Certified).
5) Forging defined working relationships/partnerships with Industry and local businesses.
6) Rallying community pride behind the only predominantly African-American school in among the most historically segregated areas in the South.
7) A school culture that embraces the idea of “Achievement is the Expectation!” where students demonstrate real pride in their academic success above all else (this motto is supported by students, teachers, staff and the community).
This is just one more “Extreme School” that’s in top levels from doing the right things.
Ken Savage, Assistant Principal of Curriculum
Dunbar High School (239) 461-5322
Now, you’ve read about another “Extreme School” success story, we have a question for you. How many school successes do you need to see and hear about before you BELIEVE that it can happen at your school? And, if there’s anyone on your staff who does not think it can happen, please forward these monthly bulletins to them.
Second, what can you learn from the true story mentioned above? The only good that happens in this world is when you move things from inside your brain to the outside world. What ideas, principles or strategies were affirmed, OR what was new to you? Could this be a topic of discussion at your next staff meeting?
Finally, miracles do happen every day. Are you ready to one of them?
If your Title 1 school has an “Extreme School” story to tell (whether you have moved up or are currently struggling) please email me your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, put “Extreme School” story. Thanks.
Congratulations to the winner of the “Extreme School” complimentary day of staff development.
It’s Kathy Redmond, the principal of Blackburn Elementary in Palmetto, FL!
Your partner in learning,
CEO, Jensen Learning,
the Leader in Brain-Based Education