Fulling Promises. Summer 2014 IN THIS ISSUE – Consortium Matters.Early College High School: A Seamless Pathway to Graduation and Career Success – Final Thoughts From an MCNC Legend – DNA: CEC’s Genetic Solution to Build an Empathetic Community – Buffalo ECHS Students Make a Strong Case – Los Angeles Biology Teacher Breaks Through More Than Glass Ceiling
Early College High School: A Seamless Pathway to Graduation and Career Success
As the school year drew to an end and we closed out a very successful Summer Conference, I found myself struck by the old adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I just read the new report produced by the Pathways to Prosperity Network, led by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Harvard Graduate School of Education, which highlights the need for closer alignment and opportunities to combine high schools to real work preparation and experience. The report, written by Nancy Hoffmann, a vice president and senior adviser at Jobs for the Future, cites grim realities about youth’s preparation to enter the workforce. Among 2012 high-school graduates who didn’t enroll in college the following year, only 45 percent found work of any kind, and only half of those jobs were full time. Census reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found young Americans were found to be unemployed at about twice the rate of older workers.
This trend has moved the high school improvement agenda to recognize the need to include work-based learning as it did during the school to work era of the 1990’s. The JFF study identified three reasons for this shift: misalignment of school to work skills-jobs match, the rising cost of college and brain research which show that adolescents engage and flourish when they see concrete return on their time and effort investment. According to Robert Halpern, internship and work-study experiences open “a window to the adult world by blending academic and applied learning through introduction of apprenticeships, project-based learning and other real world applications.”
Of course high schools are not the only ones responsible for providing opportunity. Contributing to the problem is the “disengagement of American businesses” from the task of educating the next generation of workers, said Nancy Hoffmann. She lists early-college high schools as one of several networks of schools that are part of the solution. Allowing students to start earning college credits while they’re in high school is one way to provide momentum and schools like Career Education Center Middle College High School of Denver has long demonstrated the value of providing hands on career certification in motivating students towards graduation and post-graduation success. Up until recently, LaGuardia and International ECHS in New York City required internships of all their graduates. These meaningful work experiences were preceded by one to two courses of pre coursework and scaffolded apprenticeships with accompanying seminars for debriefing. Students became contributing members of teams, tested their skills and received honest feedback and instruction on important skills. As students in early colleges required more time for credit accumulation and academic skills acquisition, internships took a back seat. With changing times, we may need to revisit our roots.
The report makes several recommendations that we might consider, as we integrate STEM into our schools in a conscious effort to be relevant in the 21st century:
1. Permeable pathways through post secondary education allowing young people to transfer credit from one level to the next and move between sectors of the economy.
2. Require students to apply sophisticated theory and application to real-world problems to include STEM as it relates to other disciplines.
3. Develop STEM competencies and work skills, complex problem solving and expertise in communication, teamwork and presentation skills.
4. Respond to developmental needs of adolescents, including building a work identity in multigenerational workplace outside of school.
They also list key pathways to implementation, which sound familiar as we think back to early MCNC models:
1. Career counseling and information
2. Engaged employers, work based learning opportunities and curricular support
3. Intermediary links between educators and employees
4. Committed state leaders and favorable policy environment
Ten states have joined the Pathways to Prosperity network, including Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Tennessee. I encourage you to find ways for us to go forward by going back and partnering with local business, policy makers and educators to implement, share and provide students with pathways to their futures.
You have been one of the longest serving MCNC Principals within the Consortium, what prompted your decision to leave at this moment?
Several years ago I had this opportunity to use the school (Mott Middle College HS) as a lab school and to develop Middle and Early Colleges across the state of Michigan and I just reached the point at work where I was overwhelmingly busy. I reached a point of knowing that I could not be the exemplar principal that I had always strived to be and also be an exemplar leader and coach of an organization to keep widening the number of students that could take advantage of this approach to education. There are only 24 hours in each day and it was wise for me to step down from the Principalship and mentor someone in that role while things were still going well. At this time, I could make an impact in this way, without doing too many things.
Then I had the opportunity to be the statewide coordinator for the Consortium and its role in this new I3 Grant opportunity. I absolutely would have been undertaking too much. But these new opportunities marry well with the coaching and I can continue to coach through the Middle College model because that supports what the I3 work is all about.
You have made powerful contributions to the Michigan educational community and the MCNC Community through your breakthrough work with Wrap Around Services and Critical Friends Review, what do you feel most proud of and hope to be your legacy?
I know what drove me was I don’t believe that there are throw away children. What drove me was the desire to provide equal access to a superior education for all. I believe that students can reinvent themselves. I believe that they deserve this opportunity.
I’m most proud of the actual hard core quantitative data that we now have that proves that with superior supports and with educators who believe that all students can become college ready and continue education beyond the twelfth grade. And I’m really, really proud of that because we still have policies, practices and traditions in place where some students are sorted out. And because of the sorting some students don’t get an equal education.
You are such an optimistic person and have always had such faith in your students, what surprises did you experience and what goals did you reach that you did not expect you would achieve during your tenure?
I think in surprises, I have been struck by how hard it has been to motivate, lead and sustain the adult leadership that you have to develop to sustain the types of schools that we’ve developed to serve the underserved, underprepared, under performing youth. We have to work as hard servicing the teachers and servicing the counselors and college instructors who are working with these youth as we work at servicing the youth. There is a balance. So my surprise is how much I’ve had to dig in and learn from other people and talk to other people about the type of leadership that it takes; which is distributed leadership which also means that everyone has to become a leader. There can’t be any slackers or people who say, “I’ll do what you tell me to do.” Or “explain it to me again, and I’ll try it again.” That energy that I feel it has taken to provide that leadership has been a surprise. What drove me to this work was the scholarliness, the intellectual scholarliness mixed with the passion of serving underrepresented children. I’ve had all that support from the Consortium and wonderful support from educational leaders in Michigan and my higher education work, which I continue to do. Without it, I couldn’t have done it. And that really has been my surprise.
I think how wide spread, even the Early College Movement with all of its models and all of its structures across the nation and in our state [has become]; I knew from my doctoral work in the 1990’s they said it takes fifty years to bring about a revolution in education. It is the slowest institution to have solid reform to become the model of the day. We’ve been in this for about 40 years and I had no idea that Michigan would, in just the last 10 years, just burst with the work of this reform movement. It’s permeated our entire state. One model to another, district by district are getting on board relooking at how they are and are not getting students work ready and college ready.
Over the years at Mott, how have things (students/policies/college/district mandates) changed and what do you take away from that experience? Are students better able to address their academic needs? Are they still caught in the same struggles?
I know that our students’ profiles are almost the same. We can go back 25 years and it’s almost the same: their GPA are higher, it’s higher in numbers who receive free lunch, numbers who come from families who are incarcerated, it’s higher on people who are involved in abuse of all kinds. We’re looking at a student body that is more fragile. Take that student body that is more fragile and yet our students are achieving more and more; career preparation wise and academically. They are doing that because we, all of us, secretaries, counselors, administrators, teachers, we have changed how we do our work. We can talk about that. We can articulate that. That’s the biggest situational change that I see in students. We have become wiser. We have created all kinds of interventions that we wish we had created earlier. We learn from them and they learn from us.
What advice or counsel do you have for those who will succeed you?
I feel I’ve come full circle. I wish more educators would think about the medical model for their career. That is based on the idea that you have a patient and you ask yourself: What are the strengths and what are the weaknesses? What is the symptom that’s going to be a disease if you don’t catch it and treat it. You would never do something that someone else could do better in another country or another state. No, you’d seek out the person who is doing it better. That’s what I want to leave, that I stood for servicing at risk youth. But servicing them well. Servicing them with dignity, with respect. To open up their lives so that their lives can be more fulfilled. I think I always, in my head, thought from a medical model. I know that the faculty and students say, “You always use those words,” but they just resonate with me. And lastly, there was a situation a few weeks ago where students were surprising me, and a former Assistant Principal (Lee Rossmaessler) came back and gave me a jar of honey. He said, what he learned from me was you truly can solve things with sweetness and kindness and I’m trying to do it all with kindness to everybody. I try to model that and expect that with everyone. It’s what you say, when you say it, how you say it and should you say it. That compassion and that kindness part, for me is important to me because I’m emotional, I hurt easily and I know how it’s effected me as a student and as a teacher, counselor, director, a principal, coach, all the way through. I hope that people will remember that and think about the impact their personal actions play. It doesn’t matter how good your interventions are, your control of the content, your plan on paper. If you push people away from you, if you interfere with their personal space nothing good is going to happen anyway. It’s going to be futile.
What’s your next move and how will you bring what you learned at Mott MCHS to that challenge?
We’re moving onto this wonderful opportunity, this wonderful collaboration with Teachers College, with NCREST, with Jobs for the Future, with the state of Connecticut. We’re trying to see if we can take what we’ve learned in our Early College work, with students being successful handling overlapping dual enrollment in their high school years. We’re going to try to take that at a smaller level, with a smaller expectation into the general education high schools, 9-12, and marry what we’ve learned from successful dual enrollment experiences for adolescents and increasing the number of students who are truly prepared for following a pathway that leads to STEM career choices because we’re hurting in the numbers of students in our country; we’re certainly hurting in the number of students in Michigan. We can’t bring in enough people. People are leaving who have the potential, People who could be staying and going into STEM related jobs in our state. So it’s a matter of survival for us. I think the collaboration is super exciting; MCNC and Jobs for the Future are two major organization, blending together. I’ll have the opportunity to work hand in hand with Cece on this project while I concentrate on organizing and trying to direct it and move these 11 pilot districts here in Michigan.
Any last thoughts?
It has been a dream job; a dream organization to be a part of. It’s been a family. My daughter teases me. She says she has my speech down. Whenever I meet a stranger I ask them to sit down and I say, “Have you heard about Middle College?” And then I say, “Now let me tell you about Early College?” She imitates me. . . Aren’t I fortunate? I’m the one who has gotten the most out of this experience.
Well, Chery, many of us at the Consortium, in Michigan, and at Mott Middle College and Community College would beg to differ on that last point. Wishing you all the best in this well deserved move.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. Their annual conference brings together the country’s deepest thinkers, leaders and innovators to discuss ideas and foster creative solutions for the nation’s problems. Several year’s ago they expanded their participants to include high school students through a partnership with Los Angeles Unified Schools district which hosts an annual competition to address relevant issues like mental health, violence, and the environment. This year they expanded the competition to include Denver. We are proud to say that Career Education Center MCHS of Denver was selected as one of three winning schools to attend this summer’s Institute and present their project, DNA (Denver is Not Alone), on July 2 at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival. Students are invited to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival (all expenses paid) and present their solutions to a distinguished gathering of global leaders, policymakers and social entrepreneurs. The teams spend three powerful days cultivating solutions in an environment overflowing with new ideas from some of the most brilliant minds of our time. This year’s Festival presenters include former President Bill Clinton and Kobe Bryant. Visit aspenideas.org to learn more about the Conference.
Launched by the Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation, and in partnership with Denver Public Schools, the citywide competition began with a two-day forum in January, where seven leaders, who are pioneering change to pressing world issues, presented the teams with seven unique challenges. Teams then had seven weeks to design a solution to a challenge topic of their choice. Equipped with tools and resources, students worked with an educator coach to strengthen their teamwork and leadership skills while collaborating with each other to design a solution to the challenge they selected. The teams engaged and gathered input from their community throughout the process.
Each team presented their inspired solution to a panel of distinguished judges, who evaluated each team based on their solution’s creativity, feasibility, sustainability, community outreach, originality and use of teamwork.
The team from CEC Middle College addressed Christopher Gandin Le’s challenge to improve mental health by creating safe spaces in their school and local community for people to share and express their feelings. The team, dubbed DNA (Denver’s Not Alone) created several community-sourced art projects, launched a community day of dialogue and a peer mentorship program.
Students at CEC were moved by Gandin Le’s work as an author and activist in the study of suicide, especially among youth. They recognized the isolation he spoke of in their own daily disconnect within traditional school communities. Their challenge became to identify the ways that people in the school community can improve their mental health by creating safe spaces in their school or neighborhood where people can share how they’re feeling. The goal was to get people talking – not just about suicide, not just about bullying – about hope and life. Walter Ochoa, senior and team leader, said, “This challenge is important because it is an opportunity to make the community happy. Everyone is too busy with their lives to take a moment to appreciate the joy of being alive. I want to show people that life is not always difficult. It might look like a storm now, but at the end there is a rainbow waiting. Putting a smile on someone’s face is all the evidence I need to know that I made an impact in their lives. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference.”
Once the team got to work, ideas went in many directions. Throughout the Spring they organized opportunities and venues to lift the spirits and engage the entire school in making CEC MCHS a more empathetic community.
The winning solution comprised several art projects, a community day, and a new peer mentorship program built to continue after the students graduate. The symbol they chose to carry the concept of community empathy was a DNA strand, representing connectedness: Denver’s Not Alone. The winning team worked together seamlessly because of the passion they had for their vision. Each person contributed something unique from connections with the Denver community to skills in art or construction.
Like most start up organizations, DNA members soon learned that great ideas, even when coupled with commitment and organization takes more than grit. Walter remembers the impact of economic realities like this:
“Our team wanted to work with Challenge Day Denver to put on a community building day for our school, but we quickly discovered that we could not afford this. We reached out to some former DPS students from the Montbello neighborhood to help us create something of our own that could have a similar effect on our school. Along with Greg McCoy and his team, we planned DNA Day. The day long event, was themed, “remove your mask”This wonderful experience brought our school together with a lot of laughs and fun at first. First Greg shared his compelling story, followed by every student doing the same within a small group. Things got very real for everyone at CEC. It was a chance for each student to truly be heard. Breaking through the traditional walls was the first step at CEC and now Greg and his team have begun to schedule DNA Days with other DPS middle and high schools.
Personal stories continued to fuel empathy and openness in the school environment. The CEC team created a public space that was unique and continues to expand connectedness. They initiated a 6-word memoir campaign inspired by Jordan Wirfs-Brock and FLOODLIGHT (floodlightproject.org). Step one was to send out letters to celebrities in the local community. Then they invited students and staff to share their stories in 6 words. The reaction was so well received that they visited an assisted living center and collected 6-word memoirs from elderly community members. With a sizable collection of great stories to share, and the community eager to keep sharing, they decided to go public. Working with the construction class at CEC, they made a chalkboard complete with the DNA logo, and installed it in the cafeteria. They continue changing up the 6-word memoirs every week.
Other art projects included a tile mosaic mural and a painted mural in the school building. DNA invited everyone from preschoolers to senior citizens in the neighborhood to paint a 4’’x4’’ tile. Administrators and students alike gathered to paint images, quotes, and patterns on their tiles. The finished product transformed walls into bright, lasting murals of hope and inspiration created by many different perspectives from the community. Walter remarker, “While the finished product is something to admire, the process was the most beautiful part. Groups of people who didn’t normally hang out together gathered around tables covered with paint and brushes laughing and creating memories together. “
One of the most sustainable parts of their solution is the peer mentoring program planned in partnership with the YESS Institute. Working with the school’s National Honor Society chapter, DNA has started to recruit junior and senior mentors who are willing to pass some of their success to freshman students in need of a helping hand. The YESS Institute encourages partnerships between mentors and mentees built on fun and trust before a strong focus on academics. This works perfectly with DNA’s vision because it will help freshmen transition into the challenges of high school without feeling helpless or isolated.
Social Media links:
• DNA’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cec_dna#!/CECDNA
• DNA’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/cec_dna
• CEC’s Blog: http://www.dosomethingreal.com/blog/students-helping-students
• CEC’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/CECMiddleCollegeofDenver?hc_location=timeline
BECHS, which serves students in grades 9-13 and opened in 2003, has moved changed locations several times, despite its recognition for success. The school is a recipient of a Smart Scholars Grant from New York State. Through the Smart Scholars Early College High School Program, institutions of higher education (IHEs) partner with public school districts to create early college high schools that provide students with the opportunity and preparation to accelerate the completion of their high school studies while earning a minimum of twenty but up to sixty transferable college credits at the same time.
This program is targeted to students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education. Students receive additional academic support from the school/college partnerships to ensure they are at grade level and ready to participate in rigorous high school and collegiate courses. This “dual or concurrent enrollment” program serves to increase high school graduation and college completion rates, while reducing student tuition costs as a result of the compressed time needed to complete a college degree.
BECHS students fit the profile of most urban adolescents. They enter the school with a multitude concerns ranging from poverty, single parent homes, neighborhood violence and weak academic preparation. Yet an overwhelming number of students find success and new hope at BECHS. They form closeknit peer groups with similar academic goals, support through hard working, dedicated teachers and real opportunities for challenge and career preparation. The proposed relocation of the school adds additional challenges that may be too difficult to overcome. If they are moved to the off campus location they will share space with a 5th-8th grade school. Their schedule will not align with the college schedule, making attendance and on time arrival difficult for seniors registered for college classes. The distance between the proposed site and the college is at least fifteen minutes away and requires a car or bus for transport.
There have been many meetings with parents since the school was informed they would have to move. At this time parents are optimistic that the Board will rescind the decision to move the school and grant a stay of one year to find permanent space.
In early June as all hope was fading, Principal Susan Doyle was invited to attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees with four Buffalo Early College Students to plead their case for an extension of temporary housing on the ECC campus
Andrea Mulkey, invited Ms. Doyle and the students to speak to the Board of Trustees at a meeting to discuss grades 6-16 initiatives by virtue of their extraordinary performance in the program. Ms. Doyle shared the latest NCREST data with the panel demonstrating the high rate of success her students had in college classes and four students spoke.
The students included two 12th graders, Khollin Buchanan and Jessica McAdory, a fifth year student, Xaviera Ashley, who is currently taking classes at the community college and will attend University of Buffalo next year and Cordell Torres, an alumnus who is entering his senior year at Brockport and is on the Deans List. The students were able to speak from the diverse layers within this successful program; the struggles, support and accomplishment students who are at the school experience, the preparation and confidence that is built when students straddle between high school and college and the discipline and control they have developed as they transfer to 4 year colleges with half their credits completed.
“Middle college has taught me how to think critically, and solve problems. The program has also given me career options by walking me through degree possibilities. The faculty and staff have assisted me through the entire process and for that I am most grateful. If it had not been for their dedication to the students and program, I believe that I wouldn’t be in the great place that I am right now. Middle college assures educational stability. It taught me how to not only set a goal but how to achieve it. The program instilled a sense of maturity within myself. It assured in me not only academic structure but also confidence. This program has been a huge part of my journey in education and life.”
Cordell, the current University of Buffalo student, speaking of the personal relationships that are developed in a small, intimate setting focused on academic performance, added, “It’s not every day where people step in and help you stay on the right track when outside issues conflict heavily with school. I’m very thankful for the people who surrounded me and the staff that helped me get where I’m at today.”
When asked for recommendations about expanding or supporting middle and early college programs, Principal Doyle advocated putting an Early College in each district. The Chancellor said, “You are amazing. Your kids are amazing. This is what the audience needed to hear.”
Needless to say, Ms. Doyle was on point when she said, “The students tell the real story.” Let’s hope it is heard loud and clear.
Hallmarks of STEM are hands on experiences with science, mathematics and technology. As educators we always say that modeling is the best way to engage students in the learning experience and Susan Goff, Biology teacher at LA SW Early College High School took this mantra to stratospheric heights. Last June, she overcame personal and logistical odds to be among the first group of teachers to fly on SOFIA. SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) that is based and managed at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The NASA SOFIA 747SP aircraft can scan infrared signals to study planetary atmospheres, comets and interstellar star chemistry.
Susan Goff speaks about her experience and why the once in a lifetime opportunity was so important for her students and herself.
Two years ago I came upon an application for this NASA program; it’s called the Stratospheric Program for Infrared Astronomy. And it’s actually a 747 airplane that has been converted to an airplane with a German telescope on board.
There are currently only two flying infrared observatories in the world and SOFIA is the largest. Germany has made the telescope and US has provided the 747 and altered it so that it ‘s a scientific research airplane.
Launched in 2010, SOFIA is a 20 year program and I joined their first cadre of teachers. I was very interested in Astrobiology. I’m a biology teacher, but I like to bring in astrobiology to the students when we are studying extremophiles and life in different environments. I wanted to apply but I needed a partner so I approached our new physics teacher, Cliff Gerstman. I went up to him and said, “I don’t want you to feel roped into anything, but would you be interested in applying to the SOFIA Program, and he was ecstatic. Ironically, he had been following SOFIA for 12 years before they even started converting the airplane. He had been creating lessons on pencil and paper for the program. They selected 26 educators across the US and we were selected. We had to take an astronomy course online, which was challenging because I was a biology teacher. In fact, it was the most difficult thing about the experience. I had to draw on mathematics I hadn’t used in years and learn science that was out of my field. I learned quite a bit. Shortly before we were scheduled for our flight, I was diagnosed with cancer, but I still wanted to go because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Though I was on a leave of absence, I continued to study, prepare and look forward to the experience.
Finally, last June we flew aboard SOFIA.
You fly at night and you fly for about 10-12 hours. You are in the stratosphere, about 26,000 feet in the air. You fly in the stratosphere because you want to be above the clouds and above the water vapor so you can take infrared photographs and measurements of the universe, other galaxies and black holes. The mission records star birth and death, formation of new solar systems, identification of complex molecules in space, and nebulae and dust in galaxies (or, Ecosystems of galaxies).
Along with the crew and the educators, there were professional scientists who go to do research. They were Physical Investigators from Cornell, Ithaca, and other universities. They pay for time aboard to take measurements for their research. They bring their own instruments on board. We had people from Cornell who were looking at a black hole. The most intriguing part of it was the collaborative nature of science and all the different parts; there were people involved in programming, chemistry, and physics. They weren’t necessarily astronomers. But they would take readings and crunch the numbers into programs to create the various pictures of the universe. When you’re up on SOFIA and you’re looking at planets you think that you are going to see something that looks like what you’ve seen in books. It’s not anything like that. It’s little dots that have a number and you’re disappointed. We learned that the information has to go through programmers who reconfigure it and write a program that shows you what the simulations would look like. The photos we see in newspapers and journals are created when programmers recalculate the math. The collaborative process is fascinating.
Unfortunately, something malfunctioned on the telescope and our trip was cut short. Our two-day flight was over after eight hours. They couldn’t make the necessary repairs in time to continue with our flight, but we had accomplished and learned enough to make the investment of time, energy and sacrifice well worth it. The most important part of the program is that we, as teachers, come back and share what we’ve learned about the electromagnetic spectrum; how it is present in our daily lives and how it has an impact on all areas of research. As teachers we need to raise awareness of engineering, math, and all the STEM disciplines because we’re trying to prepare students for jobs that, perhaps, are not even created yet. We want to prepare the students so they are really applying the math, the physics, the technology, using real time data and using the resources they have available through NASA. NASA has lots of aircraft that look at different aspects of space that are available to educators and students.
Susan Goff recommends: VOYAGES THROUGH TIME Curriculum, a multi year integrated science curriculum for 9-10 graders as an introductory Science Course which engages students in inquiry and multimedia exporation of all the sciences through the theme of Evolution or change over time. It is produced by SETI.
Fulfulling Promises: Winter 2014
IN THIS ISSUE
– US Congressional Representative Donna Edwards Keynote at MCNC Student Leadership Initiative Conference
– Lassiter Makes Enduring Legacy to El Centro ECHS
– Brashier Principal Gets Education’s ‘Oscar’
– MATTIE ADAMS: A Principal Who Lives by the Motto, “Through faith, all things are possible.”
– See more at: http://www.mcnc.us/2013/11/fulfulling-promises-winter-2013/#sthash.hRw7Mkcb.UH45kr1W.dpuf
The Los Angeles Unified School District announced their eighth Principal of the Day to be Mattie Adams-Robertson, the extraordinary leader of Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy (HTPA) on the campus of Los Angeles Harbor College.
Dr. Mattie Adams-Robertson opened Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy in 2002. She had served the Los Angeles Unified School District as a successful mathematics teacher, counselor and assistant principal at Banning and Narbonne High Schools. In taking the job as principal of an Early College High School in the genesis of the era of dual enrollment high schools for under served populations, she marked herself as a pioneer, champion for all students, and early proponent of a movement that has spread throughout California and the country.
Now, HTPA, in it’s 12th year has a national reputation for graduating 55% of their students with a dual high school diploma and Associate Arts degree and 95% of it’s graduating seniors completing at least one year of college when they leave high school. During her tenure, Principal Adams says she’s consistently set high expectations for all students and staff, who continue their strides toward academic success. HTPA’s 2011 Statewide Rank and Similar School Rank is a “10/10” and the HTPA Academic Performing Index score is 931.
Visitors to the campus, located in portable trailers on college grounds, are greeted regularly by the charming Principal, who cares for their every need and comfort, while managing the many tasks required by the district, college administration and most especially the 437 students and families she serves. She counts among the many who have come to see high school students blending with and often outshining their college counterparts Melinda Gates and delegations from as far away as Washington, D.C.; Singapore; and South Africa.
In her role as a principal who cares for staff as much as students, she has provided ongoing support and guidance to make the faculty exemplars of innovation and professional growth. An earlier embracer of the MCNC Peer Review process: CLASS, has fostered a supervisory model that is designed to provide peer support through reflection and evaluation. HTPA was the first school on the West Coast to implement this model with great success. Her staff has shared their protocols and experiences at national conferences, demonstrating how leadership can be a shared experience.
Ms. Adams has been a star on the MCNC stage for many years. She has mentored new schools, like the highly successful Academy of Health Sciences in Prince George County, MD and served on the Executive Board of the Consortium and is a founding member and leader of the California Coalition of Early and Middle Colleges. She lives by the principle that through faith, all things are possible, and her achievements attest to that belief.
MCNC proudly celebrates the recognition of principal, Mike Sinclair of Brashier Middle College Charter High School as a 2013 Milken Educator. No one in our organization was surprised when the announcement came over the wires, but Mike, who thought his Friday afternoon was to be spent escorting the Superintendent and SC educators around his campus was caught completely off guard. He did not have an inkling. He was told the state Supt was looking to showcase SC Schools. “We are involved with some important state programs so I thought it made sense. I made sure local officials would be there with all the students. I spent weeks frantically preparing for the visit.
This was the first year that the school was in the TAPP system so I thought we were getting an award for the school. When Gary said, ‘A person….’ I started to get anxious.”
In making the announcement before SC educators, the faculty and student body of Brashier, Dr. Mick Zais, Superintendent of Education of South Carolina said:
“Teaching is a calling not a job. . .Coming from a family of educators, I know that these types of recognitions do not come often enough. . . Teachers can have the single most important impact on a child. Kristi Grooms [Dutch Fork, SC honoree] and Mike Sinclair represent all that great teachers can be and the heights they can achieve. They have shown real leadership in their schools and fully deserve this prestigious award.”
After the Superintendent and Dr. Gregory Stark, National Institute For Excellence in Teaching President and CEO made their remarks, Sinclair stated, “My philosophy of education is that students all have tremendous potential and they develop at different times or in different ways, so as an educational system we need to be flexible and focus on meeting the needs of our students rather than meeting the needs of a system. Students just have tremendous potential that unfortunately can go untapped if someone doesn’t take time to look at it.”
Sinclair graduated from the University of SC and received a Masters Degree in Administration from Furman University. After teaching at J.L. Mann Academy of Math, Science and Technology and Beck Academy of International Studies he served as AP at the latter. A 4year tenure as principal at Berea Middle School in Greenville, SC led to the offer to open Brashier Charter MCHS, the second early college charter high school affiliated with Greenville Technical Community College. In looking back on the past decade, Sinclair remembers his early days as a principal. “I started the principalship at thirty years old, fresh out of graduate school. I went to school with veteran staff. I was told they needed time to adjust. I was so young, my suit was even too big for me.” Today, Mike serves on a variety of statewide committees and associations including the SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) Review Team for the state of South Carolina.
Sinclair was instrumental in the planning and building of Brashier Middle College, a charter school that opened with 100 students in 2006 and has grown to 420 in 2013. Brashier proudly boasts a graduation rate of 98.3 percent and enrolled 77.7 percent of its upperclassmen in college classes in 2012. These students accumulated nearly 2,000 college credit hours along with completion of high school requirements. 2012 graduates received a total of $2.2 million in college scholarships.
Over the last eight years at Brashier, Sinclair’s leadership has been guided by and stayed true to his vision. A believer in life long learning and the importance of all members of the learning community to experience growth, he is proud that teachers at Brashier receive ongoing professional development and are expected to stay abreast of successful research based instructional practices. Always an educational driver and not a follower, he has worked with MCNC to spearhead school wide literacy before the Common Core, on line communities of practice before MOOCs, Peer Support and Review before Danielson’s Framework, and Dave Conley’s EPIC assessment for college readiness in high school. He implemented TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement, where master and mentor teachers model research-based instructional practices
All students at the school are encouraged to take, and supported in, college classes, and struggling students are identified early and enrolled in a Freshman Academy that helps them upgrade their skills and prevents dropping out, which can be endemic in the 9th grade. Combining high school and college skills and social emotional maturity is a complex task. Sinclair and his staff address these complexities with attempts to strengthen students’ communication and leadership skills, by creating portfolios and requiring student presentations to adults as early as freshman year. He has also tried to build strong connections with community partners in order “to try to connect our students to a world that’s bigger than just Simpsonville, South Carolina,” he said.
Colleagues describe Sinclair as an encyclopedia of best practices who stays abreast of legislation, literature and statistics, using data to formulate results-oriented strategies.
He guided creation of a charter school bill that brought a funding increase. He is also credited for improving relationships between public and charter schools.
Mike is a fixture and welcome presenter at MCNC Conferences. Often he shuns the personal praise and recognition for his school’s accomplishments, placing his faculty in the forefront for the hard work and dedication they have demonstrated. Each initiative resulted in growth for the faculty and, even more, success for his students as the data shows.
The education award comes with a $25,000 prize that Sinclair may use however he wishes. He is the second MCNC educator to receive this award. In 2007, Sakhalin Finnie, chemistry teacher at Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy was surprised by the honor. Selection of Milken recipients alternates each year between elementary and secondary educators. Educators are recommended for the honor by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by state education departments and based on exceptional educational talent as shown by effective instructional practices and student learning results, exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom and contributions to education that are largely unheralded but worthy of the spotlight. Winners are in their early- to mid-career with long-range potential for professional and policy leadership.
Recipients join the Milken Educator Network, a coalition of top educators who have access to a variety of expert resources to help cultivate and expand innovative programs in their classrooms, schools and districts.
Mike spoke of the impact the award has and may engender in his future. “Everyone I run into who is a Milken, I have such respect for. These are the educators who do it to serve students. It’s great to be a part of something connected to a national community. . .I feel I have work [ahead of me]. I can influence people in the educational community from my office. I believe there will be a lot more opportunities over the next 24 months. I believe I’m called to do something.”
Mike Sinclair is often heard saying, “I accept this honor with pride, but I accept it because of what my students and teachers do.” And that’s another reason why this award is so fitting and justified.
And if all that isn’t enough, Mike says, disbelievingly, “My father tweeted about me.”
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Based on a work at www.mcnc.us