Raising the bar for our students

Thursday, September 21, 2006

High expectations, academic studies, teachers working together, students actively engaged and a culture of continuous improvement are all tenets of the exciting High Schools That Work program. Administered through the Southern Regional Education Board, High Schools That Work is an innovative program that is impacting high schools across the United States by providing a model for accelerated student achievement.

Cassville High School is now one of over a 1,000 member schools who are utilizing the High Schools At Work program to bolster student success. CHS Principal Brad Hanson and high school faculty members have begun incorporating programs introduced by High Schools That Work and modified to fit the needs of Cassville students. Some of these programs include: the ACES advisory program that pairs a student with a teacher advisor/mentor for all four years of high school, a literacy challenge, led by Hanson, that encourages students to read at least 25 books per year across the curriculum; and the newly initiated tutoring program that requires students who are receiving a D or F in a class to attend tutoring sessions three times a week.

Cassville is receiving a $25,000 annual grant through the State of Missouri to participate in the program. The district is currently in its second year of the five-year grant program. Hanson said the majority of the funding is used to provide professional development opportunities for faculty members to learn the "best practices" championed by the program.

High Schools That Work is a fantastic program that all local parents, especially those with students who attend Cassville High School, should be excited about. It is a program that raises expectations and never falters from the belief that all students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies. For too long, it has been said that our educational system is suffering from a "dumbing down" or a decrease in expectations for what our students can achieve. High Schools That Work reverses that trend and challenges school leaders and teachers to create an educational environment that motivates students to succeed.

The program also strives to create better communication between student and teacher and teacher and parent. Studies show that this type of open communication undergirds student success. By building these relationships, students have access to the extra help they need to handle more rigorous coursework successfully.

High Schools That Work provide districts with the tools they need to determine whether programs they institute are really making a quantitative difference. Programs initiated by High Schools That Work are supported by research and have been put to the test in some of the nation's top high schools. It's a program that works and is producing higher achieving, better-prepared students all across the country.

It was exciting to hear Larry Sorrells, new Southwest High School principal, say he was interested in learning more about High Schools That Work and getting the R-V District involved in the program. This is good news, and definitely a step in the right direction for the county's third largest district.

High Schools That Work is a proven program we can all stand behind, and one that every school in the Barry County area should take a good, hard look at. As a Cassville parent, it's personally thrilling to know that our students are being given the opportunity to attend class in a district that truly dedicates itself to student excellence and student success.