Education Week - June 2, 2016 - Diplomas Count - (Page 23)

A Bold Reinvention Gets a Rocky Start After a tough first year, Denver's Northfield High School adjusts its vision. By Jaclyn Zubrzycki A s the end of middle school approached, Ahjahnte "Tae" Birch was thinking about the future. The Denver student's sister had gone to East High School, one of the city's largest and oldest; he was considering South High School, another decades-old high school. Denver's school choice system meant that he could evaluate his options for high school. His family ultimately landed on Northfield High, a brand new school that advertised itself as offering rigorous International Baccalaureate classes for all students and focused pathways that allowed students to study subjects they were interested in-in Tae's case, business. "I've always been an entrepreneur," he said. And so, on Aug. 10 of last year, Tae joined the first class of students to attend Northfield High, the Mile High City's first new comprehensive high school in 35 years. While many urban public school systems are shrinking, Denver's has been steadily adding students for most of the past decade: Enrollment rose from just over 70,000 students in 2000 to more than 90,000 in 2015-16. The school system is currently running more than 50 high school programs-some charter, some alternative, and some that fit the more traditional model of a large high school that draws mainly from its surrounding area. Northfield was intended to be a mix of old and new: a large, comprehensive high school in fast-growing Stapleton, one of the more affluent parts of the city, with a design that was anything but traditional. Northfield was an innovation school, granted autonomy from some district policies and contract provisions by state law. (The school was among several affected by a judge's ruling that the district had run afoul of state law by creating innovation schools from scratch instead of allowing school staff members to vote on whether to become one. Teachers voted to OK Northfield's plan last August.) And the school was intended to explicitly serve a diverse student body, engineered through the district's school choice process and intentionally drawn boundary lines, and to offer all its students equal access to rigorous academics. It was a fresh start and a demon- * * * * A midday karate class warms up at Denver's Northfield High School. Students continue to have the opportunity to take part in physical education classes every day. Nathan W. Armes for Education Week DENVER stration of the district's commitment to equity in a city where, 20 years after the end of court-ordered desegregation, the achievement gap between affluent and poorer students is among the biggest in the country, according to some recent reports. Among the components of the plan, the school would have: Detracked classes, which means that students would be in multilevel courses instead of being grouped by ability level. It would offer rigorous International Baccalaureate classes to all students and pathways in subjects like arts, business, and biomedical sciences. Competency-based grading: Students' grades would be based on demonstrated knowledge, not on things like homework completion or class participation. Other structural components, like a longer school day and school year, physical education every day, and a late start time (8:45 a.m.), aimed at improving students' academic performance. A distributed-leadership model for staff, in which peers would evaluate each other and teachers would Remaking High Schools | 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 2, 2016 - Diplomas Count

Education Week - Diplomas Count - June 2, 2016
For Better High Schools, Coherence May Be Key
Taking Students’ Voices to Heart
One Student’s Quest To Reshape Schools
Students in El Paso Get Leg Up On College
In Omaha, a Chance To Try Out a Career
Classroom and City Merge in Cleveland
Citizens Get a Say In Boston Redesign
A Bold Reinvention Gets a Rocky Start
Minn. High School Built for ‘Flexibility’
In Ark., Going Big On a Human Scale
U.S. Graduation Rate Reaches a New High

Education Week - June 2, 2016 - Diplomas Count