Some critics have noted that the rise in standards and high-stakes tests will be unfair to students who have attended poorly resourced schools (Achieve, 2000). However, this problem has been met by offering extra help and supportive services to the students of the disadvantaged schools (2001). One of the most common support methods has been to offer disadvantaged students more time; such as summer school, adding an extra year to their high school education and transition programs to ensure students can fulfill high school requirements (2001).
Little progress has been made in developing a better curriculum and instructional support to aid in the acceleration of learning for disadvantaged high school (Balfanz, et al. , 2002). Some high schools have implemented a whole school reform by creating catch-up courses and district wide special prep courses (2002). These reforms have not been thoroughly evaluated because their infancy; using small, formative studies, thus little is known about the feasibility and rapidity of student acceleration in disadvantaged high schools.
This study aims at taking the first step to in understanding the elementary school learning needs and providing appropriate teaching techniques for each schools situation; by reporting on the initial results and impacts of the Talent Development High Schools (TDHS) ninth grade instructional program in reading and mathematics. The study involves several cities and multiple high-poverty, non-selective high schools within each city. Academic Models of Recognition
Piney Woods School in Piney Woods, Mississippi has programs that should be viewed as national models. Although a private school, its strategies for success are practical and successful. The predominantly African American school is known for changing the lives of low-income students by having them complete a rigid diet of reading, writing, math, science and foreign language (Wooster, et al. 2001). While requiring students work ten hours a week in order to teach them responsibility, Piney Woods School gives students a sense of unity and tough love.
The programs implemented are; Writing Across the Curriculum, which trains freshman and sophomores in basic composition skills; Always Reaching Upward, a peer tutoring program which pairs under achievers with high achievers and Save the Males, a tutoring, mentoring and special male focused groups that facilitate responsibility and self confidence. The results are phenomenal with a ninety five percentage rate of students going on to college after graduation and the other five percent going into military services.
Analysis of existing achievement data in high-poverty high schools provides two conclusions. First, students who attend high-poverty high schools are typically performing below national norms and are dramatically short of the performance benchmarks employed to measure academic success. An analysis conducted by Education Week (1998) indicates, for example, that students entering high school in the majority of large cities are often found to be two or more years below grade level (Quality Counts 98, 1998).
In Philadelphia, for instance, seventeen percent of high school students attend one of twenty-two non-selective neighborhood schools (Neild & Balfanz, 2001); and approximately half of these students are reading below the fifth or sixth grade level. A quarter of these students are reading at the seventh or eighth grade level. Approximately one in four students attending a nonselective high school in Philadelphia read at grade level.
In eight of the non-selective neighborhood schools in Philadelphia, a little over two thirds of first-time ninth graders are performing below the seventh grade level in both reading and mathematics (Neild & Balfanz, 2001). One important conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that in many non-selective urban schools students need accelerated learning opportunities. A second conclusion is that the current level of academic performance in disadvantaged high schools can lead to multiple negative consequences for students and society.
It is too early to accurately gauge the impact of the high-stakes; standards based graduation tests and dropout rates of students entering high school with weak academic skills (Bishop & Mane, 2000; Hauser, 2001). Existing data from metropolitan cities such as Chicago (Roderick & Camburn, 1999) and Philadelphia, however, demonstrates a link between poor academic preparation and course failure; as well as the retention of many high-poverty students.
Course failure and retention in the ninth grade has caused a high amount of high school drop outs. Forty-three percent of first-time freshmen in Philadelphia entering ninth grade with below seventh grade math and reading skills were not promoted to the tenth grade (Neild & Balfanz, 2001); in comparison to the eighteen percent of students entering ninth grade with math and reading skills above the seventh grade level.
Student skills below grade level requirements result in retention, poor attendance, and course failure. First-time freshmen who were not promoted to the tenth grade had a dropout rate of nearly sixty percent when compared to a twelve percent drop out rate for students who were promoted (Neild, Stoner-Eby, & Furstenberg, 2001). The individual and social consequences of dropping out of high school are considerable. The Committee for Economic Development (2000) has documented the economic returns to advanced education.
Non-promotion has become the norm in approximately two hundred-fifty to three hundred high schools, in thirty-five major cities in the United States (Balfanz & Legters, 2001). Sixty percent of the population in these public high schools is African American and Latino students in (2001). The United States Department of Education expresses the importance of raising graduation requirements and standards; therefore it is essential to the success of future high school students, that a means of improving reading proficiency is achieved.