EDVISIONS SCHOOLS – CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP AND MORE
EdVisions Schools is being recognized for its success in closing the achievement gap, and much more. On December 7, 2006, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement released a 72-page guide profiling eight charter secondary schools that are making headway in meeting the achievement challenge. EdVisions’ flagship school, the Minnesota New Country School is perhaps the most non-traditional school profiled in the U.S. DOE guide. Chosen from over 400 charter secondary schools across the country that are meeting achievement goals under NCLB, these eight schools are achieving remarkable success, particularly with traditionally underserved populations. The research revealed that while the differences across these schools are interesting it is the schools’ significant similarities that are more instructive for understanding their effectiveness. They are mission-drive; focus on college preparation; teach for mastery; provide wraparound support; value professional learning; and hold themselves accountable.
The U.S. DOE guide reports that closing the achievement gaps that separate the academic performance of various subgroups of students is a central goal of current education reform efforts nationwide. Hard-earned progress has been made at the elementary school level, but high school students are not progressing nearly as well. Indeed, it is at this level that performance gains in general have been most elusive and chronic student achievement disparities among significant subgroups seem most intransigent. Yet success is not beyond reach.
Charter schools are uniquely positioned to contribute to this effort. Charter schools are public, but they operate with greater autonomy than many non-charter public schools. Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, puts it this way: “Charter schools are giving administrators the freedom to innovate, teachers the ability to be creative, parents the chance to be involved, and students the opportunity to learn – creating a partnership that leads to improved student achievement.”
The Minnesota New Country School (MNCS), which became the prototype for the nationally recognized EdVisions Schools model is in its thirteenth year of operation. MNCS is serving a significantly higher than average number of students with special needs and lower income families. The average ACT scores for MNCS students are two points higher than the national average and eight of every ten go on to post-secondary studies. Funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided EdVisions with the resources to create a national network of 35 small, personalized secondary schools that replicate the design essentials of MNCS. This growing network represents an even greater diversity of students in primarily urban areas in seven states, with enrollment ranging from 100 - 400 students.
The EdVisions model includes two unique organizational aspects: student driven project-based learning; and autonomous, democratically controlled schools that provide opportunities for teacher ownership. EdVisions believes that highly personalized learning is key to student success. This is affirmed by their motto, “No Child Left Unknown.” Even with its alternative approach, EdVisions students are on par with or outperforming their peers academically. However, EdVisions believes that evaluating schools solely in terms of test scores does not reveal the true nature of the learning environment or its ability to prepare students for college, careers or global citizenship. EdVisions schools go far beyond traditional measures and are documenting a broader impact through participation in the Hope Study. Results from this research-based study conclude that students in EdVisions schools have a greater sense of ownership and autonomy, a genuine sense of belonging, a positive goal orientation, and are more engaged in the learning process. All of this provides students with a strong platform for success and increased hope for the future (for more information, visit www.edvisions.coop).
Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education shares, “I hope that educators nationwide find these examples as inspiring as I do. Together, through proven strategies like these, we will achieve our goal.” The guide is available on the Department’s website at: www.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/charterhs/index.html.
Contact: Kathleen O’Sullivan, Cell Phone: 323-697-1166
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