High school summit set

Parents, staff to brainstorm ways to improve teens' performance

January 26, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,SUN REPORTER

The sign outside the room just a couple of doors down from the main office at Northeast High School says conference room. But everyone who has worked within the four cinder-block walls plastered with students' names, test scores and attendance data, calls it the war room.

"This is a battle we're fighting ... for our children," Northeast Principal Kathryn Kubic said.

On any given afternoon, you can find teachers and administrators huddling over the data.

Trying to find out who missed how many days in class and why. Trying to see who needs tutoring and in what class. Trying to see who has been suspended again.

Kubic and her staff are hoping this kind of detective work will help Northeast High improve its standing in the system - it is in the bottom half on state test scores in most areas but biology - and in the state.

For much of the year, Kubic has turned inward for inspiration, but this weekend she'll look to her colleagues from 11 other high schools in the Anne Arundel school system for ideas on how to improve the academic performance at her school.

She'll be one of more than 250 people expected at a high school summit at Annapolis High school tomorrow.

The event, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon, includes such nationally known experts as Joe DiMartino, president of the Center for Secondary School Redesign, Inc. and Grace Sammon, author of a books on high school reform.

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said it is fitting that the summit is being held at Annapolis High, where school officials are planning a drastic overhaul of staff and programming to help turn around poor reading test scores and low graduation rates.

The high school summit follows a similar one for middle schools in October that generated dozens of ideas that included creative teaching techniques and ways to improve community and parent involvement.

The goal was to raise test scores among students in grades 6 through 8.

"The hope is to generate discussion, generate more questions about where we are now, where we'd like to go," said George Arlotto, director of high schools for the district. "I don't have an expectation that we're going to walk away from this with all the answers. This is the beginning."

The summit's goal, Arlotto said, is "not to just have talking heads," but to generate discussion in the audience, which will not only be made up of educators but also parents and community members.

The audience will then be divided into groups that brainstorm ideas on how to improve local high schools.

Around the nation, much of high school reform research has centered around how to make high schools feel smaller.

That is particularly important in Anne Arundel County, school officials said, because high schools are large campuses with 1,500 to 2,200 students.

"Research is clear that students perform better when they have a personal connection to the building [and] to the staff at the building," Arlotto said. "So, the question is: How do you create an atmosphere where every student is known, whether they're a top-notch student, or middle-of-the-road, or struggling?"

At Northeast High, Kubic is creating academic paths for students - similar to majors in college. In this new vision, Kubic sees students taking elective classes that have a theme and address an interest the student has. She has come up with more than a dozen of these academic pathways, including law, computer science, health and homeland security.

Students will take the electives with students with similar interests to make the 1,500-student school feel smaller.

"So they're not only more interested in school, but they see the same kids in their classes, they go through the whole thing together," Kubic said. "You gotta give 'em a reason to step through that door."

ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

People interested in registering can contact Teresa Tudor at 410-222-5414 or ttudor@aacps .org or sign up on site.

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