High School

Theme - Instructional Programs, Practices, and Arrangements

Best Practices

  • Broader spectrum of students offered opportunities to take AP and honors classes and flexible scheduling to best meet student needs.
  • Expectations that teachers have not only content expertise but also the ability to effectively differentiate their instruction.
  • Instructional supports such as labs and tutorials to help students succeed in rigorous courses.

Although teachers in higher-performing high schools report "no instructional mandates," of necessity, they have had to adjust their instructional approaches in order to be successful in today’s more diverse classrooms. Not only have their schools decreased or completely eliminated tracks and moved toward inclusion of special education students in regular education classrooms, they are also encouraging more students to enroll in honors and AP classes (some with open enrollment), especially students who typically have not had an opportunity to take these more rigorous courses in the past.

Teachers are expected to have not only content expertise but also the ability to effectively differentiate their instruction to teach students of all capabilities and learning styles. A variety of supports are in place for students, including special educators co-teaching inclusion classes, more use of technology, lab classes supplanting traditional Academic Intervention Services -- often taught by the core teacher for that course -- and extended days and summer programs to provide more time for extra help.

Communication among teachers and with guidance and other support services is essential to ensuring consistency of instruction and providing the right services and courses for students to succeed.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

Average-performers also practice inclusion and are incorporating more technology, but they report a more "birdshot" approach to instruction.

In both average and higher performers, guidance plays a central role in monitoring student progress toward fulfilling graduation and college entrance requirements; however, in the districts of the higher performers, guidance plays a more active role in communicating expectations across middle and high school and facilitates transitions in a variety of ways.

Selected Evidence:

In White Plains, the "Three Legged Stool" is part of a school-wide effort to support differentiated instruction through alignment of instructional objectives with formative assessments and clearly articulated and guiding learning objectives. It provides evidence of how a school might use a research-based framework to support critical discussions and thinking around the relationships of particular instructional approaches and student achievement.

One way Batavia High School encourages innovation is through its progressive use of technology. Teachers benefit from professional development that encourages the use of technology in enhancing instruction and students benefit with a variety of electives on-line.

Like many of the higher performers, South Kortright High School provides opportunities for teachers and students to meet in small groups during an end-of-the-school-day period.

The same lab report format is used in all science classes, grades 7-12, in Warrensburg Central School District. English and social studies also establish common expectations across grade levels.