Tagged “Special Needs”

Staff Commitment Turns School Environment Into a Place of Learning

Bloomfield High School, Bloomfield, N.J.

Changing the culture of a large, diverse high school from a place of teaching to a place of learning requires determination and the commitment of the entire school staff. Documented growth for all students and closing achievement gaps over the last five years has demonstrated that Bloomfield High School has made this transformation. BHS is a microcosm of America. Its nearly 2,000 students, 45 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, and 16 percent of whom receive special education services, are almost equally African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic. Consistent academic growth over time has led to the community’s resurgent pride in the school and the school being named a 2010 National Title I Distinguished School.
 

Individualized Education Helps Support School’s Diverse Student Population

Northview High School, Florissant, M.O.

Northview High School is a public separate special education school in the Special School District of St. Louis County. Northview serves a diverse student population with significant support needs as outlined in their individualized education plans. Students either require significant support to access curriculum or have not been successful in the traditional school environment. The movement from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation has been very challenging as we are a special education school working with students across the continuum. The character education journey has taken strong dedication and is the result of a steady increase in staff commitment.
 

New School Develops Its Core

Pembroke Elementary School, Troy, Mich.

In 2007, Pembroke Elementary School had an ideal opportunity to recast itself with a new vision, touchstone, and school mascot as it moved into a brand new building. The Pembroke Character Education Committee played a role in developing the new school touchstone, with its focus on core values, as the new building opened. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Pembroke has achieved great clarity of vision, with its core values supported by the touchstone and the school pledge. The faculty and administration recognize and testify to a well-developed integration of core values into curricular lessons. In addition to cross-age buddy programs, the school also implements a Links program, where older students reach out to special needs students every day at lunch and recess. Intrinsic reward strategies are understood and practiced, along with reflection by students involved in disciplinary situations. Parents are actively engaged in the work of the Character Education Committee and in meaningful volunteer activities in the school and through the PTA.

A Common Message and Sense of Belonging

Renfro Elementary School, Collinsville, Ill.

Renfro Elementary School special education teacher Mary Anne Hempsted observes, "This school is the most welcoming place that I have ever worked. People respond to any need." Renfro's teachers and students connect through class meetings and the cross-grade level "families." Each family creates their own silent family greeting that they use whenever they encounter a "family member" in the halls. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Renfro defines character to include thinking, feeling, and doing and takes a very comprehensive, intentional, proactive approach to character education. Carrie White, parent of a second grader and a kindergartner, praises the common language used at the school, which carries into the home, and observes that the words mean the same at school and at home. Entire classrooms of students are recognized for showing good character, not individuals. Third-grade teacher Carolyn Demaree says, "Every adult cares for the students in this school and holds them accountable."

Building a Positive School Culture for Diverse Students

Woodville High School, Woodville, South Australia

Recognized as a MindMatters School in 2011 by whole child partner Principals Australia Institute, Woodville High School has a complex and diverse student population with students coming from 56 cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In 2010, 12 percent of students were identified as students with disabilities, 51 percent as English language learners, and nearly 40 percent are from non English-speaking backgrounds.

Recently well-being became a key focus of at Woodville High School and was incorporated into the site learning plan. Since then, the school has developed initiatives on youth empowerment, building relationships, as well as a "no blame" and a restorative approach to behavior management. School policies have been revised and new procedures around bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying, have been developed. Staff are more confident and have the resources to address a range of mental health concerns and mentoring, parent, and community programs have been established.

A Whole School Approach to Well-Being

Nazareth Catholic College, Findon, South Australia

Recognized as a MindMatters School in 2011 by whole child partner Principals Australia Institute, Nazareth Catholic College is a secondary school situated in Adelaide's western suburbs. The school caters for students from diverse cultural backgrounds and offers flexible learning programs to accommodate individual needs. A strong commitment to a whole school approach to well-being and social-emotional learning is a key component of its vision. As a result, staff and students have increased their awareness of mental health and well-being, and mental health difficulties are being demystified through deeper understanding. The school environment has become more inclusive and connected; there has been a significant decrease in incidents of bullying and harassment; and mentor groups provide forums for all students to comfortably express themselves and teachers recognize the importance of forming positive relationships with all students in the group.

Respecting and Valuing All Members of the Community

Kormilda College, Berrimah, Northern Territory, Australia

Kormilda College is an independent, coeducational, multicultural, day and residential secondary school serving the people of Northern Australia. The College was founded by the Northern Territory Government in 1967 to provide Aboriginal students living in isolated locations with access to secondary and further education. Kormilda College has grow into a vibrant multicultural learning community, with an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students, the majority of whom are day students from the greater Darwin area.

Recognized as a MindMatters School in 2011 by whole child partner Principals Australia Institute, the school has adopted a whole-school approach to pastoral care. Outcomes have included increased levels of resilience, more effective communication, mapping and managing mental health, promoting inclusion and celebrating diversity, and preventing harassment and bullying. The ultimate outcome is a positive school community, where all members are valued and respected.

Meeting Societal Challenges on a Global Level

Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, Mass.

Preparing students to meet the challenges of a global society is at the core of Worcester (Mass.) Technical High School's mission as it strives for excellence across the 24 different technical programs available to students.

Although 65 percent of the student body is economically disadvantaged and 21 percent is special needs, Worcester Tech has still made adequate yearly progress four years in a row, has decreased the dropout rate, and enrolls increasing numbers of students in honors or advanced placement courses. Principal Sheila Harrity has helped transform the school, through the formation of a strong community, into a positive school atmosphere that truly values student achievement.

It's no wonder that Worcester Technical High School, in addition to being the highest-performing high school in the district, is a recipient of the 2011 Breakthrough School Award from the MetLife Foundation and whole child partner National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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