Personalized instruction, high expectations, and hands-on and group learning experiences are helping to close the achievement gap in four Northern California schools, according to a report released today by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).
Such “student-centered” practices improved the outcomes for African-American and Latino students at two district schools and two district-approved independent charter schools, according to the report, Student-Centered Schools: Closing the Opportunity Gap. The district schools both have a linked learning health care theme: Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch and Life Academy of Health and Bioscience in Oakland. The charter schools both emphasize arts and technology: City Arts and Tech High School in San Francisco and Impact Academy of Arts & Technology in Hayward.
“The numbers are compelling,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University professor and SCOPE faculty director, in published comments about the report. “Students in the study schools showed greater achievement than their peers, had higher graduation rates, were better prepared for college and showed greater persistence in college. Student-centered learning proves to be especially beneficial to economically disadvantaged students and students whose parents have not attended college.”
For example, in all four high schools all Latino students completed the coursework required for four-year state universities in 2011-12 compared with statewide rates of 28 percent. In three of the four schools, all African-American students completed the coursework – and at Dozier-Libbey 94 percent did – compared with 29 percent statewide. All the high schools are relatively small, with Dozier-Libbey the largest at 639 students in 2012-13. Low-income students made up the majority in three of the high schools, with 99 percent of the students at Life Academy being eligible for free and reduced-price meals in 2012-13. At Dozier-Libbey, 48 percent were eligible.
The researchers cite the schools as models for closing the persistent achievement gap between low-income African-American and Latino students and their better-off peers. Today’s jobs require specialized skills and knowledge that cannot be learned through traditional, more structured approaches to learning, the researchers contend. “Low-income students and students of color are particularly unprepared as they are more than likely to attend segregated schools with a narrow and impoverished curriculum,” they say. Besides the more personalized approach to learning, these schools also allow more time for teachers to collaborate and reflect on their practice, according to the report, which contains an educator’s tool.