High School Completion

Theme - Curriculum and Academic Goals

Best Practices

  • Goals look beyond graduation in four years to success in post-secondary education and career.
  • The curriculum is constantly and collaboratively revised in response to state mandates, identified needs, and student and community interests.
  • Expectations for all students are high, e.g., mastery on Regents exams, challenging courses.

Educators in the higher performers have come to see their goal as not just high school graduation but preparation for life beyond high school. They encourage post-secondary education for all students and are collecting data on college and other post-secondary program completion rates for their graduates in their efforts to meet this goal. The curriculum is shaped, in part, by this goal and the need to provide courses to prepare students for fields that are relevant to their interests and the community in which they live. Thus curriculum revision is ongoing and includes, as well, revisions to meet changing State standards. Curriculum revision is undertaken collaboratively and seeks to involve special educators and English as a Second Language teachers.

Although it is clear that there is a basic common core curriculum, teachers are encouraged to use their skills and knowledge in creative ways. For example, a teacher who has knowledge of Shakespeare may use his or her knowledge in that area to enhance the delivery of the curriculum. Encouraging curricular creativity is fostered through honest, free, and frank discussions about curriculum. Drama, poetry, and literature provide pathways for this creativity.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

Although mastery is the standard in the higher-performing schools, the curriculum is sensitive to student aspirations. Some vocational options are available. For students in isolated areas or whose families are unfamiliar with higher education, encouragement to explore possibilities comes in the form of support for taking the PSAT, field trips to college fairs or college compasuses, and/or other school- or district-provided opportunities to expand horizons.

In contrast, teachers and administrators in some of the average-performing schools are just moving beyond the need to establish basic order and safety so that they can focus on academic goals. Or they are shifting the emphasis from athletics to academics and working with their communities to help them catch up to the new, higher expectations for all students. The curriculum is more of an individual teacher decision within what is often viewed as a curriculum determined by the State.

Selected Evidence

In Prattsburgh, a committee of teachers, administrators, parents, and community members drafted a comprehensive plan that includes a goal of 90% of students achieving an advanced Regents Diploma, which involves passing additional exams in mathematics, science, and language than the five required for a standard diploma.

At Eastridge, where the district covers the cost of taking the PSAT and all exams associated with IB and AP courses, counselors guide juniors and seniors and their parents through the college preparation and application process through an active website as well as timetables and checklists for juniors and seniors.

Downsville's LINKS Program provides an integrated plan, which is updated, reviewed, and reported on to all on an annual basis.