The following is a company-submitted press release and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of School Planning & Management magazine.

National Program Recognizing Outstanding and Equitable High Schools Announces its First Accolades

Boulder, Colo. — The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado announced today that 17 high schools in New York and Colorado are the first to receive the “School of Opportunity” designation. These outstanding schools demonstrated a range of practices that ensured that all students had rich opportunities to succeed. All put students, not test scores, first.

The Schools of Opportunity project, funded by the Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation, highlights excellent practices designed to expand student opportunity and access to academic success. The program was piloted in just two states in the 2014-2015 school year: Colorado and New York. Next school year, the project will include high schools nationwide.

The project is jointly led by Professor Kevin Welner of the CU-Boulder School of Education, who directs the NEPC, and Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, NY. Burris was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Burris, whose school has been ranked consistently high on lists of the nation’s top schools, nevertheless is critical of common ratings programs.

“Current ratings programs aimed at identifying the nation’s best high schools include many high-quality schools,” she said. “But the approach they use tends to reward schools that are affluent or those that enroll a selective group of students. It is time we recognize schools that do outstanding work with a wider range of students.”

“The schools we’re recognizing with this new project are all places you would delight in having your own children attend,” Welner added.

“We hope,” he said, “that this project will help move the nation past the constraining and wrongheaded discussion of school quality that focuses on ‘Problems, Statistics and Labels.’ Students and educators, as well as parents and researchers who spend time on our high schools, know that quality schooling comes from excellent practices.”

Recognized schools received either a Gold or Silver designation. The Gold “Schools of Opportunity” in 2015 are, in alphabetical order:

  • Centaurus High School, Lafayette, Colorado
  • Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, Bronx, New York
  • Grand Valley High School, Garfield, Colorado
  • Jefferson County Open High School, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Malverne High School, Malverne, New York

The 12 high schools that earned Silver Schools of Opportunity designation in 2015 are:

  • Center High School, Center, Colorado
  • Charles D'Amico High School, Albion, New York
  • Durango High School, Durango, Colorado
  • Eastridge High School, Rochester, New York
  • Elwood – John H. Glenn High School, Elwood, New York
  • Fox Lane High School, Bedford, New York
  • Long Beach High School, Long Beach, New York
  • Long View High School, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Mapleton Early College High School, Thornton, Colorado
  • Harrison High School, Harrison, New York
  • Sleepy Hollow High School, Sleepy Hollow, New York
  • Sunset Park High School, Brooklyn, New York

These schools range in student-body size and include schools in rural, urban and suburban settings. They include traditional high schools as well as small schools that students choose to attend and that may be outside their neighborhoods. (Short summaries of each school are included at the end of this release.)

The recognition of these 17 schools is based on 11 specific principles identified by experts in the 2013 Oxford University Press book, Closing the Opportunity Gap, which Welner edited along with Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter. Specific practices include effective student and faculty support systems, outreach to the community, health and psychological support, judicious and fair discipline policies, little or no tracking, and high-quality teacher induction and mentoring programs. A list and description of these recognition criteria are available on the project website.

In order to be recognized, school applications were required to go through four levels of screening, including rubric-based ratings by two evaluators. Evaluation teams also made in-person visits to the recognized “Gold” schools.

Burris and Welner stress that the opportunity gaps facing the nation’s children arise from poverty, racism and other societal ills much more than from anything taking place in schools. But schools are nonetheless important, and they can make a real difference in children’s lives.

“When schools and communities focus their resources and efforts on closing opportunity gaps, they should be recognized, supported and applauded,” Burris said. “They should also serve as models for those who wish to engage in true school improvement.”

For more information please visit Schools of Opportunity.

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