I've been watching a TV program featuring Jeffrey Robinson, principal of that school. He worked to reduce the drop-out rate in the area.
Some American high schools, including especially inner-city public schools, have a drop-out rate of about 50%. Mr. Robinson talked about the efforts he made to improve that situation.
He said he's made a LOT of visits to student's homes. If they don't come to school, he makes an effort to go after them and to find out what the problem is.
He tries to awaken desire in the students. He (a black man) said that years ago, black students had desire, but there were no opportunities. He says now there are opportunities, but there is a lack of desire. He likes for each student to make a connection with someone at the school whom they know cares about them. Some ways that's shown: teachers will try to help the students get employment when they need it. Sometimes, they'll personally pay a student to do some work for them. The principal says he has bought shirts for students--"I don't want them coming to school looking raggedy."
When he hires teachers, he tries to find a certain attitude. He doesn't want teachers who teach as a job; he wants teachers who teach because they understand it to be their calling. He also likes to hire teachers who have engaged in competitive sports. He feels the lessons learned therein--team-work, striving for excellence, perseverance--are good for teaching.
He makes a point of taking students on field trips to good universities, especially freshmen. He likes the young people to get a taste of life at higher education, and to think, "If I work hard enough, I can be here too, some day." (It may be the first time they've really thought about further education, and a goal puts each class into a certain perspective.)
I found it refreshing that the improvements were tested, not theoretical, and they did not focus on insisting on more money to spend.
What do you value, in motivating students? What are some of the things that work in your school experiences?
He sounds like a bl***y good principal, I'd be surprised if the parents who care about their kids education aren't beating a path to his door saying "take my kid"! From my experience here, and that, only as a parent, the education system here could use his principals and those of the "Aim Higher" programme.
I heard a news report to the effect that Baltimore only graduates 35% of their students; Detroit is even worse, with a graduation rate of only 25%.
Figures like that can be rather very deceiving, to be honest. I can point to schools here which do a very good job with their students (as measured
by value added, which is a government measure) and still have results about like that. So much depends on the cohort, the level the students are at
when they arrive at the school, etc.
What I'm saying is that those figures do not mean that the schools are not doing a good job. Like any other figure, it can't be taken on its own.