The New American High School Conference

Showcase Schools in Brief

Throughout the country, states and communities are working to improve high schools, raise academic achievement, and build school-to-work opportunity systems to prepare all students for college and careers. The U.S. Department of Education is helping to focus attention on these efforts and enabling others to learn from them through a series of activities planned in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, the National School-to-Work Office, the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, and national organizations representing education, business, labor, youth serving agencies, community leaders, parents, and students. The New American High School conference, held in Washington, D.C., on May 22-24, 1996, showcased teams from 10 communities. Brief descriptions of these showcase sites follow.

Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences, Chicago, IL

"This is a community partnership that still believes in developing a youngster who can think and a youngster who can do: the true Renaissance person."

--Barbara Valerious, Principal

This school uses agriculture as the central theme of an educational strategy that provides students with all the courses required for entrance into colleges and universities, as well as hands-on skills.

Type of School: Magnet
Type of Location: Urban
Students Served: Enrollment 450 (65 percent African American, 19 percent Caucasian, 16 percent Hispanic)

Selected Accomplishments

David Douglas High School, Portland, OR

"I look at all my friends at the other high school... and I feel most of them don't have any experience. ...So for me being here and doing the things I've done, ... I've had the advantage over somebody else who hasn't had this. I already know some of these things, [and] it's going to make it easier for me in college and it will make it easier for me once I get out into the world. ... I've already been prepared, I'll have done things a little bit longer than everybody else."

--David Douglas Student

In 1993, David Douglas High School and the Oregon Business Council (OBC) joined in a partnership to design a high school program that will meet the expectations of the Oregon Education Act for the 21st century and be replicated by other districts and communities. The result was a long-term strategy for whole-school restructuring that involved community and business leaders, parents, teachers, students, and school administrators.

Type of School: Comprehensive
Type of Location: Suburban
Students Served: Enrollment 1,900 (89 percent Caucasian, 6 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 2 percent Hispanic, 2 percent African American, 1 percent American Indian or Native Alaskan)

Selected Accomplishments

Encina High School, Sacramento, CA

"For people who really want to do something, the Academies really do help them. ...You get more time with your teacher, it seems like here the classes are smaller. ...Every teacher that I have here, they know me, you know, they know my name and ...I like that a lot better. You get a lot of help."

--Encina Student

Each student at Encina High School enrolls in one of five career academies that organize the academic curriculum around a career-related theme. Within an academy, a group of students stay together with the same team of teachers from grade 10 through 12.

Type of School: Comprehensive
Type of Location: Urban
Students Served: Enrollment 850 (46 percent Caucasian, 24 percent Hispanic, 18 percent African American, 9 percent Asian American, 3 percent "other. More than 75 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches").

Selected Accomplishments

Fenway Middle College High School, Boston, MA

"It's the way they teach us. I haven't had an A in math since like the fifth grade and last year, as soon as I came in here, I was getting Bs and then As, and I was always told it's even harder than regular math. I think Fenway taught me how to think--how to realize my goals."

--Fenway Student

As a "Middle College High School," this school is located on a community college campus and a majority of its students are classified as educationally disadvantaged. Fenway also belongs to the Coalition of Essential Schools, and has adopted the Coalition's "house" format as well as its strategy of teaching "habits of mind." The school combines these strategies with the use of career-related themes as a focus for the academic curriculum.

Type of School: Pilot school
Type of Location: Urban
Students Served: Enrollment 250 (57 percent African American, 20 percent Caucasian, 19 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian; 60 percent eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and 52 percent educationally disadvantaged)

Selected Accomplishments

Gateway Institute of Technology, St. Louis, MO

"I know a lot of my teachers that [say], "Hey, I know you want to do this when you get out of high school, so this program is coming up. Why don't you look into that?" They keep in mind ...what you're good at and they give you those opportunities. The counselors know who you are, the principal knows who we are. They all take care of us, they really do."

--Gateway Student

A science and technology magnet high school that prepares all of its students for careers and college education in engineering and high-tech science fields.

Type of School: Magnet
Type of Location: Urban
Students Served: Enrollment 1,075 (57 percent African American, 40 percent Caucasian, 3 percent combined Asian, Hispanic, Indian; nearly 60 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches)

Selected Accomplishments

High School of Economics and Finance, New York, NY

"You don't get to work on Wall Street anymore without a college diploma. So all the youngsters in this school take a full Regent's program, which in New York state is the highest level of courses. Simultaneous with that is the vision of a school [that is] just small and humane and caring."

--Susan de Armas, Principal

A high school that uses the theme of economics and finance to focus the curriculum, while maintaining the highest academic standards.

Type of School: Magnet
Type of Location: Urban
Students Served: Enrollment 500 (42 percent Hispanic, 32.5 percent African American, 13.5 percent Asian, 11.8 percent Caucasian)

Selected Accomplishments

Sussex Technical High School, Georgetown, DE

"I found a lot of ways to integrated math with my technical area. It really showed me that what I learned in my technical area does go on to my academic [class] as well. It's not just something we're taught that we don't get to use in every class."

--Sussex Student

Sussex Technical High School has been transformed from an area vocational school with declining student enrollment and low academic achievement to a restructured comprehensive high school that offers students an academically challenging program of study. The school's success in raising expectations and academic and technical achievement has resulted in a waiting list of qualified applicants.

Type of School: Comprehensive
Type of Location: Rural
Students Served: Enrollment 1,028 (76 percent Caucasian, 21 percent African American, 1 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Native American, less than 1 percent Asian)

Selected Accomplishments

Thompson School District, Loveland, CO

"The teachers made subjects that would normally put me to sleep a lot more interesting. First, we'd do something on the English side, and the next day do something on the history side so it wasn't the same thing over and over. It was neat because it was like you weren't just sitting there learning English. It was learning history and then there was English. They snuck it in there somehow."

--Thompson School District Student

Seven years ago, the Thompson School district took the bold step of establishing ambitious district standards and assessments. As part of that initiative, it established "career pathways" in order to help all students achieve high academic standards and to prepare for the future. The effort is districtwide. It extends to every school and involves parents, students, teachers, administrators, employers, and community leaders. Every student in the school district develops an individual Career and Academic Plan in conjunction with parents, teachers, and counselors. The plan identifies the kind of education and skills needed for students to pursue their broad career interests, and serves as a guide for course selection.

Type of School: The district contains three comprehensive high schools
Type of Location: Suburban and rural
Students Served:
Thompson Valley High School: Enrollment 1,493 (93 percent Caucasian, 7 percent combined African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American; 17 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches).
Berthoud High School: Enrollment 540 (91 percent Caucasian, 6 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian, 1 percent African American; nearly 10 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches).
Loveland High School: Enrollment 1,592 (92 percent Caucasian, 8 percent combined African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American; nearly 12 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches).

Selected Accomplishments

Walhalla High School, Walhalla, SC

"I had no focus. I never found my thing. But this [school], it really gave me a focus. I totally know what I want to do. I'm not ignorant of the fact that I may change my mind, because everyone changes their mind. But I think I will stay in this general area, and it really has given me assurance. It really gives me peace of mind that I know what I want to do."

--Walhalla Student

Walhalla High School has restructured its education program to provide students with meaningful school- and work-based experiences. This rural high school has upgraded students' academic performance by strengthening the career-related aspects of the curriculum.

Type of School: Comprehensive
Type of Location: Rural
Students Served: Enrollment 900 (93 percent Caucasian, 3 percent African American, less than 3 percent Hispanic, less than 1 percent Asian; 15 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches)

Selected Accomplishments

William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, Miami, FL

"Before I came here I had no plans to go to college, but afterwards, I thought about going to college. The academy has helped me out a lot [by] giving me a lot of choices and opportunities. They offer me jobs right now from everywhere where [if I were at] a regular high school, they wouldn't do that. I would have to wait until I actually graduate and maybe go out and look for them not them come look for me."

--William H. Turner Student

William H. Turner High School is a career magnet school offering a high level of academic and technical preparation. It now attracts two applicants for every available place.

Type of School: Magnet
Type of Location: Urban
Students Served: Enrollment 1537 (69 percent African American, 27 percent Latino, 4 percent Caucasian; 55 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches).

Selected Accomplishments

Table of Contents | Next Article | Previous Article