Challenging the Whole Child by Marge Scherer

By Marge Scherer

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Org. Originally published in the October 2008 issue of Educational Leadership, 66(2), pp. 44–51. Copyright © 2008 Andreas Schleicher and Vivien Stewart. 25 Creating Excellent and Equitable Schools Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane Friedlaender The right design features and policies can promote exceptional high schools on a broad scale. A business maxim holds that every organization is perfectly structured to achieve the results it achieves. We could say the same of schools. And when outcomes are particularly problematic—as is true for many large urban high schools that lose most of their students before graduation— attaining substantially different results in our schools will require more than just teachers “trying harder” within traditional bureaucratic constraints.

Often enough, however, they prove us wrong, perhaps simply because they were offered the chance. Keith, for example, was a student who did not appear destined for honors courses but showed his true mettle when teachers met him halfway. Keith flew under the radar—compliant, but with mediocre grades and only sporadic sparks of brilliance. Teachers suspected there was more to Keith than his grades indicated. When he took the PSAT, which we administer to all 9th and 10th graders, he scored near the top of the class.

As a small school, we can’t offer multiple levels of all courses, so we occasionally provide creative solutions to meet student needs. For example, we offer some AP classes through an online provider, and we allow some motivated students to pursue AP content by designing guided-study “road maps” that prepare them for the exams. We’ve created dual-enrollment opportunities through a local community college and a nearby art institute. It’s interesting that this dual-enrollment program draws few participants from our advanced classes but engages many students who may not previously have seen themselves as college bound.

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