Cathy James, principal of Dora High School, and Eric Smith, principal of Parrish High School, both presented their faculties’ continuous improvement plans, which aim to get their students’ test scores to meet benchmarks set by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Both of the schools are working to get out of school improvement classification for the Alabama Department of Education’s Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which serve as a yardstick for measuring the success of schools and school systems.
Dora High did not meet benchmarks for reading and math instruction for the 2010-2011 school year. However, its faculty did see the school’s graduation rate increase from 55 percent in the 2009-2010 school year to 72 percent for the 2010-2011 school year. Though a 72 percent graduation rate is not Dora High’s goal, schools are not penalized as long as they make improvements. Dora High also did not meet reading benchmarks for the 2009-2010 school year.
James listed a number of resources she and her teachers are using to bring up student test scores. It included computer software that gives teachers a sharper picture of which students are struggling and with what specific subject matter. James also said many Dora High teachers have agreed to mentor at-risk students.
Also, she said students who do not score as proficient on standardized tests will have the opportunity to attend remediation courses during school hours.
James also said her school recently started a rush week for upcoming ninth-graders in which the middle school students can pick the clubs they want to join in high school. She also said faculty members will conduct exit interviews with every student who drops out as well as that student’s parents.
“We are really trying to reinforce the need for them to graduate high school,” James said.
Parrish High School improved its graduation rate from 72 percent to 82 percent, and Smith said his data shows the rate will be around 89 percent for the 2011-2012 school year. If that is the case, Parrish High will no longer be in school improvement status.
Smith said the increase in the school’s graduation rate is thanks to a strong faculty.
“All of them played a vital role in creating our (continuous improvement) plan,” he said.
Smith also credited Parrish High’s improvement to the faculty’s emphasis on professional development, particularly sessions geared toward finding the best methods to teach students certain subjects. He said several teachers have also established mentoring programs at his school.
Smith also said administrators and faculty members have learned a lot about the effectiveness of classroom instruction from conducting interviews with students. He said the surveys are effective because teenagers can often be brutally honest.