Item number 18 on Monday's Board of Education meeting's agenda is, "Proposed High Schools That Work (HSTW) Contract with Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) for 2009-2010, Presented by: Ms. Stacy Stepney, Director, High School Teaching and Learning". It occurred to me that I've been hearing about this program for a number of years, mostly in terms of what it is going to do for high schools - not much about what it is doing or has done. The whole premise seems full of jargon and mystery and for the life of me, I've never been able to figure out what it is.
Basically, the overview and description of the program goes like this:
High Schools That Work (HSTW) is an effort-based school improvement initiative founded on the conviction that most students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies if school leaders and teachers create an environment that motivates students to make the effort to succeed. HSTW is a national effort to engage state, district and school leaders in partnership with teachers, students, parents and the community to raise student achievement in high school and middle school grades. HSTW seeks to advance the mathematics, science, communications, problem-solving and technical achievement of students by providing a framework of goals, key practices and key conditions for accelerating learning and setting higher standards. In creating this environment, more students will recognize that high school matters to their future and more students will become independent learners able to set future educational and career goals and choose courses to take to achieve those goals.
High Schools That Work is based on the belief that everyone in the education hierarchy must work together to align policies, resources, initiatives and accountability efforts to support schools in adopting and implementing comprehensive school-improvement designs. Several conditions are fundamental in using HSTW to raise student achievement:
A clear, functional mission statement
Plan for continuous improvement
Commitment to goals
Support for professional development
The following are the HSTW key practices that provide direction and meaning to comprehensive school improvement and student learning:
Program of Study
Teachers working together
Students actively engaged
Culture of Continuous improvement
My question is, "What is it?" What is it EXACTLY? Does anyone really know? Is it making any kind of impact? Should we just continue our endorsement of this "initiative" when we simply don't know if we are in any way getting our money's worth? Aren't these guidelines supposed to be things that school system leaders should already know? Why are we paying for what amounts to a consulting program to inform people of how to perform their job? I can't get past this statement, "High Schools That Work (HSTW) is an effort-based school improvement initiative founded on the conviction that most students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies if school leaders and teachers create an environment that motivates students to make the effort to succeed."
Really? Is that a novel idea? Did we not possess this belief before? Is this "initiative" really as vague as that description makes it sound? If someone has answers and knowledge, please share it with us.