The Whole Package:
The creation of high-expectations/high-need secondary schools have provided a critical field opportunity for thinking about how best to support underprepared stdents to be ready for and thrive in college. This practitioner’s guide encourages an approach to student supports that:
- Promotes the positive development of students.
- Tailors supports for students based on their needs (as assessed through various data sources and staff’s close relationships with and knowledge of students).
- Empowers staff (principals, teachers, support professionals and postsecondary partners) to collaboratively develop and provide supports and provide professional development to help them do so.
The eight principles described in this guide underlie this new view of and approach to support. The tools and resources provided in this section will help educators apply the principles to develop a coherent structure of support programs and practices.
Evolution of CAL Prep’s Supports
From the very first days of CAL Prep, developing effective student support was a primary goal of the principal, the wrap-around service coordinator, and a research team from the school’s postsecondary partner, the University of California, Berkeley. The team had the challenging task of identifying, implementing, and evaluating the best evidence-based supports and new innovations to help students build a robust academic identity. They also had to conceptualize an effective support system and its underlying principles.
Like any school (particularly newly created schools), CAL Prep has a dynamically changing environment. Changes include moving from a planned 6–12 to a 9–12 configuration, moving from Oakland to Berkeley due to facility constraints, having three principals in six years, and supporting a constantly shifting student population. Among the student composition changes are a larger Latino population, more English language learner students, higher-achieving students at entry, and students from a larger geographical area.
Despite these changes, the school continues its mission to serve a low-income population (58%) where 72% of students have parents who did not graduate from college. The constantly evolving nature of the school makes research challenging but vitally important in order to capture how site-responsive student support systems can be developed and improved.
In the first year, the school focused its supports on challenging academics. The school’s second year focus prioritized relationships between students and adults and actively engaging students in their learning. The third year focused on creating an adult-rich environment and developing methods of early intervention. By the fourth year the school had developed a schoolwide motto reflecting the key aspects of the shared culture: CARES = Cooperation, Assertiveness, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-control. This motto expanded in year five to: CARRIES = Cooperative Citizens, Assertive Activists, Rigorous Problem Solvers, Responsible Role Models, Inquisitive Scholars, Empathic Contributors, and Self-Controlled Successes. By year six, fostering supportive teaching was at the heart of the support work.
Over time, CAL Prep has learned to make better use of time and resources, utilize data on student progress more effectively, and shape its vision to meet the evolving needs of the school. Among the ongoing challenges are teacher “bandwith” (CAL Prep teachers have a longer school day than teachers in most other schools) and the need for more supports (the school recognizes a need, for example, for more counselors, student ethnic identity-focused support groups, a bullying/tolerance curriculum, and more time/resources for reading and math instruction) (Weinstein, 2011).
Tools and resources
Tools from Rhona Weinstein’s presentation at the March 2011 Woodrow Wilson Early College Network Convening may help a school figure out how to put all eight principles into practice as a whole package. These tools created by Rhona Weinstein and Leo White draw upon their research and framework development for a student support system in high-expectations/high-need schools.
- The figure of SMART Supports Model depicts the connections between all of the elements of their definition of student support.
- When completed by a school’s staff, two quick assessments of a school’s approach to student supports can indicate how far along it is in implementation.
- These charts may be used to identify how a school’s student supports system addresses the six domains of youth development (academic, bio-psycho-social, etc.) across a tiered approach (targeted versus school-wide) and across grade levels 6-14. They may be used to identify gaps in the supports system and guide how to revise a school’s approach to supporting its students.
- The Selected Resources List is organized by the six domains of youth development (academic, bio-psycho-social, etc.).
From the Practitioner’s Perspective
CAL Prep’s principal, Megan Reed, goes into more detail about the evolution of supports at her school, writing:
In the first two years, the school developed a discipline plan, set up an advisory system to support students’ emotional needs, adopted Read 180 as reading intervention, and started to offer college classes to bolster students’ ability to navigate a rigorous and college-like atmosphere.
In the next year, we increased our system of support by adding several supports to increase academic achievement and support student well-being. To this end, we added a Dean of Students to work directly with students and families to address student needs and to develop a schoolwide system of positive and negative consequences. We added AVID to support students in developing organization, study skills, and college knowledge. And we added “Figure it Out Friday,” during which students took tests in a schoolwide test-taking environment so that they got practice at performing under stress.
In the following years, I became principal and our focus transitioned heavily to developing structures, systems and programs that support students emotionally and academically. After three years of work, our vision this year is to be a supportive teaching staff. To us, this means that we
- engage every student in self-directed and constant learning,
- inspire curiosity in every student,
- increase community by knowing students through their work and life,
- focus on getting the most out of advisory,
- refine academic and social emotional intervention practices (WPSC, in class, 8th period),
- see differentiation as a natural and expected part of what we do, and
- focus on moving to solutions when issues arise with or about students.
“CAL Prep is and always has been a Petri dish in which we are cultivating new things every day.”
- Principal Megan Reed
Although the eight principles of student supports are presented separately in this guide, they are intended to be used in combination. The system may evolve and grow over time, but the end result should be a comprehensive system of student support grounded in the set of principles that reinforce and strengthen each other.
While the methods for delivering supports may vary by school, the overall design reflects a shared vision about responsible teaching and schools that come to know students well. Knowing students well so that supports can best meet their needs; Supporting teachers, staff and postsecondary partners to do their best work; And fostering a culture that continually monitors student progress and promotes positive student development are at the heart of the work and are reflected in the eight principles. The effectiveness of these approaches is heightened in a school with a learning culture that allows the conceptualization and implementation of supports to deepen over time.