Knocking down barriers to success: Hispanic students
Students present unique challenges to teachers. But those challenges can be exacerbated among certain groups of students who historically have underperformed.
Those groups – ranging from students whose native language isn’t English to those on the lower spectrum of the socioeconomic scale – are a part of what is called the education gap: the academic difference between white students who aren’t from economically challenged families and the students belonging to the historically challenged subgroups.
The Iowa State Board of Education recognized that closing the gap is critical for students – and the state’s long-term success. So 16 years ago, the board created the Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award, designed to recognize schools that have worked to overcome the education gap.
This year, five schools were honored for their work over the 2016-17 school year. One of them was Carlisle High School from the Carlisle Community School District.
Carlisle High School was honored for its work with Hispanic students. At a time when the statewide average for reading and math proficiency is only 64 percent among Hispanic students, Carlisle High School’s Hispanic population is 98 percent proficient.
We asked Carlisle High School Principal Matthew Blackmore what they are doing.
What is your school doing?
Carlisle High School (CHS) takes great pride in providing a rigorous education for all students to be successful. CHS holds all learners accountable for their learning by setting essential learning targets and goals at or above each student’s grade level. The faculty at CHS is committed to becoming an elite professional learning community and strives to improve their instruction through the power of collaboration. Most important, students at CHS are proud to call their school home and our overall culture of learning allows everyone involved to feel part of a winning team.
What is the guiding philosophy of your school?
Carlisle Community Schools takes great pride in a living, breathing mission statement: Character, service and excellence in everything we do. Professional learning communities (PLC) provide the foundation for shared leadership and data-informed decision making. Through our K-12 system, “all means all,” which ensures all students learn at high levels.
What particular challenges does your school face?
Our challenges as a school primarily lie within our strong desire to implement rigorous instructional strategies and to meet the needs of all of our learners. Our PLC work is a lifelong journey. Staff are challenged to implement researched-based interventions along with positive communication to display transparency on where students are at as learners. CHS looks at the whole student, celebrates their successes, and collaborates on their learning needs to prepare them for post-secondary goals.
What, specifically, is your school doing to push all-student advancement?
The work of our collaborative teams is the foundation of our success. Teams meet weekly and sometimes daily in order to gather and assess data, make data-informed decision making, and push their practice to the next level. We celebrate our student’s success as educators and continue to challenge one another to improve.
Some of our greatest strides are within the TLC grant. Our building learning coordinators have leveraged coaching cycles and data teams to support effective instructional strategies. Collaborative team leaders ensure positive student growth through progress-monitoring and goal setting. Mentors provide guidance to beginning teachers and teachers new to the district.
Through shared leadership, we write and progress monitor our school improvement plan. One of our current school improvement plan is that 80 percent of all students are proficient on essential learning targets. We believe as a school that high goals result in high levels of success!
What, specifically, is your school doing to push the advancement of Hispanic students?
While we do not target one set of particular students, we do acknowledge that we need for various levels of support to meet all student’s needs.
CHS offers 11 Advanced Placement courses and multiple advanced core and dual enrollment courses, which are open to all students. Academic Support Center (meeting the needs of students served at-risk) and Resource-level courses bring students up to grade level who are served with an Individual Education Plan. This is a small picture of the levels of support our whole staff provides for students.
We are proud that students who are of Hispanic descent have flourished in our school. We continue to strive to meet the needs of all of our learners and will note that “breaking barriers” is a great indicator of our future success!
What advice would you like to share with your contemporaries?
Successful schools build a culture of trust and high expectations for all teachers and all students. We have grown as a system over the last several years and continue to seek improvement in all areas.