Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 37

Even with these requirements, achievement levels and student needs are far from uniform, MLK Executive Principal Angela McShepard-Ray said. “Students do score higher on state-mandated tests. However, those scores range,” Dr. McShepard-Ray said. “There’s the highest of the high, middle of the high, and lowest of the high. It can be challenging, especially when you have a high range in one classroom.” MLK has achieved remarkable success in fostering high-level achievement among students at the highest tiers and significant growth for middle and lower tiers. High expectations are built into the curriculum. At MLK, every class starting in ninth grade is honors-level or higher. Advanced Placement (AP) class offerings are extensive. MLK currently offers 25 AP-level courses, with another due to be added in the next school year. Students choose their own courses, but all paths available are challenging. “When students come in, they are expected to achieve at that Advanced Placement level, or at minimum, at the honors level,” said Dr. McShepard-Ray. Transitions to high school grades are eased through the Freshman Forum, a program that keeps teachers in regular contact with ninth-grade students and their parents. Students across MLK in the “low-high” range receive support through study hall time and tutoring opportunities, plus teachers make time during lunch and after school to provide skill foundations. Assignment selection within classrooms can be differentiated according to student need. The highest achievers are monitored to ensure that higher-level work is taking place – students can opt to add AP classes, and a few elect to trade study hall for extra class time. For all students, coursework is intended to be challenging. Dr. McShepard-Ray said the school works to keep parents and students aware of course and GPA requirements at MLK, so students aren’t shocked by the workload. “That’s a message going out from seventh-graders to seniors: ‘You worked hard to get into MLK. Now that you’re here, the work is just beginning,’” Dr. McShepard-Ray said. While many MLK students could be considered academically driven, Dr. McShepard-Ray said that some days are inevitably better than others – and everyone needs support at some point. The school takes motivation seriously, for students at all levels. One issue that often arises is that students will falter in their willingness to tackle the demands of AP classes. Mr. Dowlen recalls working with a 36