I was thinking while writing about consortium schools twice this past week about what makes a successful high school. Having worked in a traditional high school for 28 years and now three in a consortium school, I believe I kind of know what works.
What do all high schools need? Figuring out the answer isn't rocket science. I can break it down to three main concepts that would make the difference:
1- A collaborative, respectful teaching and learning environment.
Administration, teachers, other staff and students must value each other as working together for a common goal.
Mutual respect works so much better than fear as a motivator.
Eductator experience has to be seen as an asset instead of a liability.
2-Lower class sizes and reasonable guidance caseloads.
25 maximum in a class (like the law says should be the average) so we actually have ample time to get to know the students as people, give them real individual attention and meticulously read rough drafts and revisions of those lengthy term papers we want done that will prepare kids for college.
Guidance caseloads of no more than 200 per counselor so counselors can do actual counseling and not mostly paperwork and emergencies.
3- An enforceable discipline code.
Students do need to know there are real consequences for their actions.
These very reasonable goals could actually be achieved. Instead of rewarding principals for results that are invariably made up in too many schools under current rules, give administration incentives for establishing a work environment where the above conditions are present. You then might witness more of those top scores being achieved for real.