Saturday, December 12, 2015

Renaissance Beach: KPLU's Deep Dive into the Turnaround of an Urban High School

KPLU's Sound Effects has created a wonderful, vital piece of work in Renaissance Beach, a story about the turnaround of Rainier Beach High School.  It is told thru the eyes of staff and students and is truly compelling.

The turnaround effort — fueled by a $4.3 million federal grant; and centered around a rigorous college-prep curriculum, the International Baccalaureate or “IB” — is still a work in progress.

District officials reported an 84 percent graduation rate to the state for Rainier Beach last year, KPLU has learned. If the state officially confirms those numbers next spring, that would mean the school’s graduation rate will have rebounded more than 30 points in just four years.

Two of my favorite parts are teacher/IB mentor Colin Pierce and Jocelyn Alexander Shaw "Shawshank," a no-excuses teacher from Chicago Public Schools who, if the work is not done, lets the students know her disappointment.

I especially liked Pierce's dogging one student and saying that he believed more in the student than the student believed in himself.  

Reporter Kyle Stokes put in the time to get to know this school.

I visited Rainier Beach more than 40 times during the 2014-15 school year, and I can attest the work is not over. Getting students to show up regularly and on-time, especially during first period, has been a challenge. Students who have embraced the more rigorous curriculum have found it difficult to keep up with the added workload. Some teachers have admitted to being soft on deadlines for even important assignments.

It's fine reporting and it's proof that yes, believing in students, supporting students and giving them the rigor that will push them onto better things is possible. 

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what middle schools feed RB; that's where it has to improve so kids can hit the ground running on day one of high school.

George Washington

Anonymous said...

So here's a suggestion for a willing middle school: the IB Middle Years Programme.

http://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/

David Edelman

Charlie Mas said...

The Rainier Beach assignment area and the Aki Kurose assignment area are identical except for two variations: The MLK elementary attendance area is part of the RBHS area, but not the Aki Kurose area, and the Van Asselt elementary attendance area is in the Aki Kurose area, but not the area for RBHS.

Charlie Mas said...

Maps: middle schools
high schools

Anonymous said...

Notice what's missing from Kyle Stokes' narrative. This isn't a charter school. The students aren't wearing uniforms, and they aren't being taught by non-union teachers or TFA teachers fresh out of college. This isn't a STEM school, and technology or personalized learning is not somehow part of the solution. The Common Core isn't even mentioned.

The students have passionate, committed, experienced teachers who challenge them with an established, tested, unified international curriculum. In other words, most everything about this story flies in the face of the corporate reformist narrative.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

David, I regret not ending this piece with what you said. But, there's another thread coming on a "study" about "school choice" where we can point these issues out.

And, I think the overall point is that it takes one-on-one, intimate (I know you) work by staff and teachers. There's no computer that can do that. So yes, that IS personalized learning but not what the ed-reform crowd is talking about.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are right that it depends on one's definition of "personalized learning." I was thinking of personalized learning in the Mark Zuckerberg sense of the term: "Sometimes called 'teach to one' or 'adaptive technology,' personalized learning uses interactive software to tailor lessons and assignments to individual students, in order to reflect their strengths and weaknesses, and the pace at which they learn." (http://time.com/4132619/mark-zuckerberg-personalized-learning/)

By the way, I'm not against interactive software per se. My students used it when I taught Read 180, and it was very effective as part of a larger unified program. However, my original point was that corporate reformers have been consistently naive (to put it kindly) about the fundamentally social nature of education. Technology is not a cure-all, any more, for that matter, than a rigorous curriculum is. I obviously think highly of the IB program, but it requires well-trained, experienced, committed teachers who work in a school where they can work with a high degree of independence from administration and collaboration with each other.

David Edelman

Melissa Westbrook said...

But David, in order to follow the cost-cutting model of Green Dot charters, you only need a "facilitator" in the room when this type of personalized learning is going on, not a teacher.

Naturally, I would not agree with this but one of the larger (but unspoken) likes of this idea of personalized learning is not only the hope that it truly does address individual needs but that it will help schools/districts cut costs.

Anonymous said...

So, in other words: charters + personalized learning of the interactive software variety = cost cutting and elimination of the teacher (especially of the unionized variety).

No, I also would not agree with that. For the record, use of interactive software in Read 180 is just one part of a larger program that doesn't eliminate teachers but rather requires them--requires them to work closely with struggling readers.

John Dewey's great insight into education was that it is fundamentally a social process. Rejecting the idea that the creative play of education should be reduced to a "routine efficiency prized simply for its external tangible results," he wrote in Democracy and Education, "Achievement comes to denote the sort of thing that a well-planned machine can do better than a human being can, and the main effect of education, the achieving of a life of rich significance, drops by the wayside."

It's interesting the way he linked the social nature of education and democracy. In an age of rising fascism, we might want to think about that.

David Edelman

Melissa Westbrook said...

David, should you ever want to write a guest column on that last paragraph, I would be happy to print it. I think more people need to consider the larger picture.

Anonymous said...

Green Dot schools in California have union teachers and staff. (I know that no one said they were not, but non-unionized teachers were mentioned, and Green Dot was the only charter school mentioned by name.)

I'm not that familiar with Green Dot since they're in the LA area, not northern California, but the only "facilitator" job I've heard of with them seems to be special education push-in.

LisaG

Anonymous said...

Van Asselt feeds into Mercer/Franklin, not Aki/RBHS.

--JvA

Anonymous said...

Oh, looks like Van Asselt feeds into Mercer/RBHS.

--JvA

Anonymous said...

Is there info on RBHS's IB testing, such as participation rate, average scores, full certificates, etc? How does it compare to IHS or other IB programs?

HF

Anonymous said...

Personally, this KPLU's story sums up much of my thoughts about the previous AL thread and the Scalia's argument. I leave the comparison of RB's IB and IHS's IB to people who want to wrestle over the bell curve and test scores of IQ and achievement tests. IB exam results do matter. Compare away and make a list of the top ten programs. In my mind however, there is a gigantic, life changing difference between exam results and student outcome. People who understands this difference understand why something like RB's IB program matters a lot to RB's students. That's what KPLU's story was about if you listened to this story.

reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Green Dot has its own union and are not part of the larger national/state unions. I give them credit for allowing this as other charters have not.

HF, there probably is such info but I have never seen any comparisons among the three IB schools. What I do know is all three are underfunded.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I couldn't find any apples-to-apples information. And of course schools with older programs should see larger cohorts over time. But here's some disparate info that gives a sense of the scale at the different schools:

Rainier Beach --

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international-baccalaureate-changes-outlook-seattle-school/

Last spring: "Of the 19 students who originally began working toward a full I.B. diploma, only seven were on track to earn one on graduation day. Results won’t be known until July, but I.B. coordinator Colin Pierce says that attrition rate is typical for a first cohort, and he says 21 juniors are currently on track to complete it next year."

Chief Sealth --

http://www.seattlefoundation.org/npos/Pages/FriendsofSealth.aspx

"In the past three years ... Chief Sealth High School has graduated 38 full diploma candidates."

Ingraham --

http://self.gutenberg.org/article/whebn0001419787/ingraham%20high%20school

81 IB certificate candidates in 2013-14 school year?

--JvA

Anonymous said...

Who is the new Principal at Beach?

- Just Curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't know that they have announced who will replace Chappelle. I worry that losing him will undermine what is happening there but the City decided to recruit him and he left.

Michael Rice said...

I listened to this whole program. While it seems some things have changed, many of the challenges that faced those of us who taught there in the past still remain. I have a feeling those are going to be there until the problems of the community and the neighborhood that exist outside of the school are addressed.

I also wonder what happens after the grant money runs out in 2017? I was involved with multiple initiatives at RB that started out great and ran out of steam due to the funding drying up. I wish Mr. Pierce the best. He seems to be a great IB Coordinator. He needs to be firmer on deadlines with his students, though. I also wish Ms. "Shawshank" the best. That is the type of teacher that RB needs.

Anonymous said...

In Europe, graduating with an IB certificate is comparable to having one full year of American college. My kid looked at applying to several European schools and many required either an IB certificate, a full year of AP classes, or a full year at an accredited American university. In general, their college programs were 3 years long vs the American 4 year programs.

I sure hope RBHS gets further funding because regardless of if the kids are graduating with IB certificates more are graduating. It seems to be having an effect on all of the students there not just the ones in IB.

HP

Anonymous said...

Michael Rice, the problems of the community will change with gentrification. I've helped filled out enrollment forms and FRL paperwork for families who moved to Tukwila, Seatac, and Federal Way.

reader