A report from an organization called MDRC strikes a responsive chord because the report stresses the need to “assist students who enter high school with poor academic skills” instead of dumping them in English 10 and to improve instructional content and practice:
[The report] offers research-based lessons from across these evaluations about five major challenges associated with low-performing high schools: (1) creating a personalized and orderly learning environment, (2) assisting students who enter high school with poor academic skills, (3) improving instructional content and practice, (4) preparing students for the world beyond high school, and (5) stimulating change in overstressed high schools.
The overall message of this synthesis is that structural changes to improve personalization and instructional improvement are the twin pillars of high school reform. Small learning communities and faculty advisory systems can increase students’ feelings of connectedness to their teachers. Especially in interaction with one another, extended class periods, special catch-up courses, high-quality curricula, training on these curricula, and efforts to create professional learning communities can improve student achievement. School-employer partnerships that involve career awareness activities and work internships can help students attain higher earnings after high school. Furthermore, students who enter ninth grade facing substantial academic deficits can make good progress if initiatives single them out for special support. These supports include caring teachers and special courses designed to help entering ninth-graders acquire the content knowledge and learning skills that they missed out on in earlier grades.