High School Completion

Theme - Instructional Programs, Practices, and Arrangements

Best Practices

  • Effective instruction is defined as tailored to capture student interest and actively engage them.
  • Students, especially those at risk of failing to graduate, are provided options for meeting requirements and staying in school.
  • Co-curricular activities are not only important but are seen as an opportunity to mentor, connect with, and keep students academically engaged.

Instructional programs and approaches are focused on the needs and interests of students, and educators expect to be creative and flexible in meeting every student's needs rather than expecting every student to adapt to the program. This is true in large city and small town, in 2000-student high schools and those many magnitudes smaller, for students whose first language is not English, those who have family responsibilities, or those with learning or social/emotional/behavioral difficulties. Co-curricular activities like the arts and athletics are seen as important not only as an extension of classroom learning but also as a way to engage students, their parents, and the broader community with school and as a motivator for keeping up with academics. These activities also provide additional opportunities for school personnel and other adults to mentor students.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

While holding all students to high standards (e.g., pushing for mastery on Regents exams) and encouraging them to think beyond high school, educators in the higher-performing schools are flexible in their approach to instruction. To the greatest extent possible, they provide options for students to be able to achieve academically and earn the credits needed to graduate. Students classified for special education services but expected to take the Regents exams are included in regular classes with support and held to the same standards as non-classified students. Arts and athletics are seen as an extension of the academic and used to support active engagement by both students and their families.

Educators in the average-performing schools are more likely to describe obstacles to meeting identified needs of individual students -- a rigid schedule, a lack of adequate funding, unsupportive parents. They are also more likely to have entrance requirements for enrolling in Honors or AP courses. They have begun to include classified students in mainstream classes and to focus on changing instructional approaches to better engage all students.

Selected Evidence

The Program of Studies offered at Eastridge includes a variety of programs designed to meet particular student needs, from those needing additional support to meet expectations or to work up to their potential, to those needing more rigor.

Sample pages from Elmont Memorial High School (Sewanhaka HS District) show a wide range of choices for students, including opportunities to earn college credits.

A sample course syllabus from Downsville outlines the expectation that students will be engaged in class and expects students to develop their own writing skills and voice.