Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 38

student this year who decided in October that an AP English course wasn’t right for him. The school responded with a conference that included the student, his parents, teachers, and administrators. It was Mr. Dowlen’s recommendation that the student remain in the higher course – while the class was pushing students out of their comfort zones, this was beneficial. other to discuss students who might be struggling, or potential interest and aptitudes for AP courses. Instructors work together to visualize current underclassmen as juniors and seniors, thinking through how best to prepare them. The priority is always academic experience and improvement of thought processes, Mr. Dowlen said – not specific test scores. The student ultimately opted to remain in the course. For Mr. Dowlen, this was ultimately a significant success story. Later in the year, the day after the AP test, Mr. Dowlen chatted with this student about the test and was delighted to hear him speak “in a wonderfully academic way” about the tasks he’d been asked to complete. “Teachers take the work exceptionally seriously. They embrace that level of inquiry. They embrace that level of rigor. They embrace the pace of that work,” said Mr. Dowlen. “I think that’s part of that college-going kind of culture that we have going here at our school.” “It was one of those moments. He would never have talked that way in October,” Mr. Dowlen said. “I’m hoping that eventually when he looks back, he’ll say, ‘I did that.’” Rev. Hartley said the culture of the school is exemplified by support and achievement. In the most recent school year, one of his children took five AP classes – one more than the typical maximum of four – because a devoted instructor taught an extra AP class during lunch. The workload was “huge,” Rev. Hartley said, but his child chose to take it on. “There were several other students there doing that, but they push each other,” said Rev. Hartley. “They’ve had some good, challenging peers to work on projects with.” Strong teacher collaboration and dedication helps MLK bring out the best in students. Though schedules can be complicated, with some teachers working in both middle and high school classrooms, MLK works to build time in the day for collaboration. Colleagues reach out to one an37 Another exceptional feature of MLK is student body diversity. Rev. Hartley said his kids have had school friends and project collaborators from all over the city, and from countries around the world. “The racial diversity and the ethnic diversity – it’s that horizon-broadening thing that college is supposed to be,” Rev. Hartley said. For Mr. Dowlen, the diversity within each classroom provides powerful learning opportunities. Students learn to be respectful of one another, which shines through in all contexts and further prepares them to continue learning and growing long after high school. “It’s really, really powerful when you can sit down in a class like mine and students are working in a group. They are exceptionally gracious to one another. They help each other along. They don’t judge each other. They know they have to work together for this common goal,” Mr. Dowlen said. “That diversity existing within a context of excellence and a context of cha