Ohio’s New School Models Spur Innovation

Five students crowd around two laptops to prepare a presentation.

Students prepare to make presentations about endangered species. Photo credit: Chris Rost

Aunay, a junior at Winton Woods High School outside of Cincinnati, is figuring out what she can do to combat the problem of child labor around the world for a school project.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Yasmine, who is a junior at Lincoln West High School, is arguing on behalf of Sierra Leone, the African country her group chose to represent in Model United Nations debates.

In a suburb outside of Cleveland, students at Brooklyn Middle School are learning skills for college success in study groups and juniors at Brooklyn High School are taking honors classes and visiting prospective colleges.

Students at Winton Woods High School outside Cincinnati work together on a math project. Photo credit: Chris Rost

Students at Winton Woods High School outside Cincinnati work on a mathematics project. Photo credit: Chris Rost

The schools that these students attend all have won State grants over the past two years, enabling them to remake themselves by adopting one of five innovative school redesign models endorsed by the State.  These transformations were set in motion by the State’s Race to the Top program. One of Race to the Top’s primary goals is to increase college- and career-readiness, and all of these models have track records in that regard.

This graphic displays the unique elements and national results of five models implemented in Ohio to increase achievement and graduation rates: AVID, Asia Society, New Tech Network, Ohio STEM Learning Network, and Early College High School Initiative. The unique elements of AVID are: rigorous course-taking (at least one AP or other advance course each year); required college-level AVID course to boost reading, writing and inquiry skills; and academic and social support (tutoring by college student role models). The national results of AVID are: Latino and African American graduates enroll in postsecondary education at higher rates than national average, Latino students take AP exams at five times the national rate for all students, and 89 percent of AVID students who go on to post-secondary education are still enrolled two years later. The unique elements of Asia Society are: international content integrated with all subjects, technology to support instruction and connect students to schools around the world, and international travel and exchanges. The national results of Asia Society are: schools in Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network outperform their peers in all core subject areas and across all grade levels in 85 percent of all cases, according to a study by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The unique elements of New Tech Network are: project-based learning (students collaborate on projects requiring critical thinking, creativity and communication); authentic assessment (students are assessed on ability to solve real-world problems using content knowledge); and technology to foster collaborative learning. The national results of New Tech Network are: high school graduation rate of 6 percent above the national average, college enrollment rate of 9 percent above the national average, college persistence in 4-year colleges 17 percent above the national average, and college persistence in 2-year colleges 46 percent above the national average. The unique elements of Ohio STEM Learning Network are: subjects integrated to emphasize connections across disciplines; investigation and problem solving tasks emphasize analysis and creativity; and classroom learning connected to real world through internships, mentoring, and other opportunities. The national results of Ohio STEM Learning Network are: graduates of selective schools (defined as those that enroll small numbers of highly motivated students with demonstrated talent and interest in STEM areas) are nearly 50 percent more likely to major in STEM, and graduates of selective schools are 20 percent more likely to earn a STEM-related postsecondary degree. The unique elements of Early College High School Initiative are: students can earn both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree; small learning environments that demand rigorous, college preparatory work; and extensive academic and social support provided. The national results of the Early College High School Initiative are: 77 percent of graduates pursue some form of postsecondary education, more than half earn two or more years of college credit, and graduation rate of 80 percent of schools is equal to or greater than the rate for the district as a whole.

Click for descriptions of the models. Image credit: U.S. Department of Education

That’s evident at the Academy of Global Studies, which is now part of the International Studies School Network operated by the Asia Society, a New York-based nonprofit organization. “When you go in and see the kids, they’re looking at things from different angles, they’re using technology, they know how to manage their time,” said Kevin Jones, a counselor at the school. “They’re engaged in real-world tasks; they’re pushed to think critically. We ask kids: ‘What is the global impact?’ We want them to think more deeply about these issues and become self-directed learners.”

The redesigned schools are having a broader impact on he State because they’re demonstrating what’s possible for students, said Pamela VanHorn, director of the Ohio Network for Innovation and Improvement. “Race to the Top allowed us to have many working models across the State that will give other schools an impetus to redesign their schools.”

Besides the Asia Society Network, the other four innovative models available to the schools are:

  • AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), focused on helping low-income students become college-ready through rigorous courses and support.
  • Early College high schools, which allow students to earn college credits even as they attend high school.
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) schools supported by the Ohio STEM Learning Network.
  • New Tech Network, which stresses technology-enabled collaborative projects.

Early progress at the schools that adopted the models created additional demand from other low-performing schools and 118 now operate one of the models with support from the State. Encouraged by the interest and initial results, the Ohio Legislature has allocated State funding to expand the program.

Thinking Globally

Aunay is enrolled in the Academy of Global Studies (AGS) at Winton Woods. AGS is working with two different nonprofits to, “enable students to compete in the global society through an education that promotes the 21st century skills of critical thinking, collaborative teamwork, creative problem-solving and communication,” according to its application for the grant.

AGS students must take a rigorous college-preparatory course of study that includes four years each of English, mathematics, science, Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, and an interdisciplinary class called Global Studies. They also have the opportunity to participate in internships and travel abroad.

Three students work together at a table to solve mathematics problems.

Students at Winton Woods High School engage with peers to solve mathematics problems. Photo credit: Chris Rost

Aunay’s internship was at the National Railroad Freedom Center, a local nonprofit organization that combats human trafficking and modern slavery. The knowledge she gained motivated her to take a deeper look at the problem of children denied an education and required to work in dangerous jobs, sometimes against their will, which was something she first learned about in the Global Studies seminar.

Aunay said collaborating on projects with her fellow students has changed her approach to learning. “Before AGS, I worked more independently,” she said. “Now I can communicate better with others. We have a family environment. We are all together, and we all support each other.

Serving a Diverse School

Three students at a table use diagrams to solve mathematics problems.

Students at Winton Woods High School use diagrams to solve complex mathematics problems. Photo credit: Chris Rost

Like AGS, the International Studies Academy (ISA) at Lincoln West, where Yasmine is a student, is part of the Asia Society network. Yasmine said the mock debates taught her valuable skills in diplomacy. “I’ve learned how to be patient and to speak my mind, but also keep my calm at the same time,” she said. “I’ve learned how to interact with students I don’t know and appreciate their perspectives.” Before the school became part of the network, Model United Nations was only an after-school club. Now it is a required class.

The changes fostered greater teacher collaboration and interdisciplinary assignments. “Teachers are a lot more unified because we all have a common goal,” said Robin Guerrero, international studies coordinator for the ISA. “You know that even the math teacher is touching on global studies.”

Boosting Aspirations

Not far away from ISA, Brooklyn Middle School and Brooklyn High School both chose the AVID model to better prepare their graduates for success in college and beyond. AVID provides students with mentoring and tutoring to help them succeed in Advanced Placement and other college-preparatory courses.

In 2012, more than 60 percent of AVID graduates nationwide had taken an Advanced Placement class. In 2010, only 29 percent of Brooklyn High School’s graduates enrolled in a four-year college and nearly three-quarters of students who went to any college had to take remedial classes because they were unprepared, according to Lori Bobincheck, head of professional development and assessment for the Brooklyn schools. Since joining AVID, every junior takes an honors course and visits multiple college campuses. “Kids are more focused on college, they’re looking at their future plans more clearly,” she said.

Executive Director Reed believes similar changes are happening all across the State. “What we have seen so far has been truly transformational in shifting attitudes and expectations among students and adults about who can and cannot go to college, while enhancing in measureable and meaningful ways student access to college and career pathways,” he said.

This graphic displays the unique elements and national results of five models implemented in Ohio to increase achievement and graduation rates: AVID, Asia Society, New Tech Network, Ohio STEM Learning Network, and Early College High School Initiative. The unique elements of AVID are: rigorous course-taking (at least one AP or other advance course each year); required college-level AVID course to boost reading, writing and inquiry skills; and academic and social support (tutoring by college student role models). The national results of AVID are: Latino and African American graduates enroll in postsecondary education at higher rates than national average, Latino students take AP exams at five times the national rate for all students, and 89 percent of AVID students who go on to post-secondary education are still enrolled two years later. The unique elements of Asia Society are: international content integrated with all subjects, technology to support instruction and connect students to schools around the world, and international travel and exchanges.  The national results of Asia Society are: schools in Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network outperform their peers in all core subject areas and across all grade levels in 85 percent of all cases, according to a study by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. The unique elements of New Tech Network are: project-based learning (students collaborate on projects requiring critical thinking, creativity and communication); authentic assessment (students are assessed on ability to solve real-world problems using content knowledge); and technology to foster collaborative learning. The national results of New Tech Network are: high school graduation rate of 6 percent above the national average, college enrollment rate of 9 percent above the national average, college persistence in 4-year colleges 17 percent above the national average, and college persistence in 2-year colleges 46 percent above the national average. The unique elements of Ohio STEM Learning Network are: subjects integrated to emphasize connections across disciplines; investigation and problem solving tasks emphasize analysis and creativity; and classroom learning connected to real world through internships, mentoring, and other opportunities. The national results of Ohio STEM Learning Network are: graduates of selective schools (defined as those that enroll small numbers of highly motivated students with demonstrated talent and interest in STEM areas) are nearly 50 percent more likely to major in STEM, and graduates of selective schools are 20 percent more likely to earn a STEM-related postsecondary degree. The unique elements of Early College High School Initiative are: students can earn both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree; small learning environments that demand rigorous, college preparatory work; and extensive academic and social support provided. The national results of the Early College High School Initiative are: 77 percent of graduates pursue some form of postsecondary education, more than half earn two or more years of college credit, and graduation rate of 80 percent of schools is equal to or greater than the rate for the district as a whole.

Image credit: U.S. Department of Education

Resources

A list of the schools and their proposals can be found on the Ohio Department of Education Website