What is the SLC?
In October 2006, the Department of Education informed Irvington High School of some great news. In a grant drafted the previous year, action items were included to allow teachers to provide better instruction to all students. That is, by improving our current Small Learning Communities structures, we hope to increase academic performance for the students at Irvington. The Department of Education recognized the potential of the proposal and of the participating schools and granted the Fremont Unified School District 2.65 million dollars to use for such purposes. Split with Kennedy High School and Washington High School, Irvington will naturally take a mentorship role in this endeavor. Irvington received an SLC grant years ago as part of cohort 3. As these previous funds depleted, Irvington remains proud of the accomplishments attained, yet eager to find means for continuing this innovative work. The staff is excited about the opportunities that teachers will have to support students given this new grant. Irvington continues to host schools across the nation as a SLC Design Studio School. Some of the featured components that set Irvington apart from other schools are SLC structures that include Advisory, Benchmark projects (Change project, U.N. project, Q.U.E.S.T), No D Policy, Families, and more. As a SLC cohort 6 grantee, Irvington plans to continue its efforts by refining these current structures and expanding their work to other areas.A Letter to the Irvington High School Community
The Journey Continues
At Irvington we believe that public educators have a vested interest in improving their own practices. Transforming ourselves as educators has been a part of school culture here at IHS since the early 1990s, when we realized that major restructuring was needed to provide the best education for all of our students. Our search for excellence is embedded in a process of selfexamination that we call the Cycle of Inquiry.
In this regard, Irvington and its staff are a distinct minority in the business of public education. Across the country most of the public school system exists today as it has for over a hundred years, framed up around the needs of an agricultural society and locked into earlier ideas about how to teach and work. There is much resistance, both inside and outside of education, to the demanding work of restructuring 20th century comprehensive high schools into 21st century learning organizations.
Here at Irvington, however, our transformation journey continues. Irvington was recently selected by the US Department of Education to receive a second Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) grant award, a total of $925,000 over the next five years. This most recent grant brings Kennedy and Washington High Schools into a district SLC program with Irvington, and funds their SLC work for an additional $1,650,000. Together, and at their own sites, educator leaders at these schools will reflect on the design and implementation of smaller learning communities. Those leaders will be challenged to think about current practices, to develop new structures and routines, and to sustain the successful work that is produced. As we here at Irvington embrace this new round of work, we are asking for your help as parents.
Our cycle of inquiry process is already deepening our understanding. Most recently the staff began a detailed review of the following Smaller Learning Communities strategies.
* Effective teacher pairings
* Family Identity
* Family Purity
* Students know and respect one another (support)
* Common Prep Time
* Career/Academic Pathways/Themes
* Continuous teacher training (includes new teachers to culture, best practices)
* More teachers in families (3+, maybe include electives)
* Heterogeneous grouping
* Family classrooms/proximity
* Integrated, Interdisciplinary Practices
* More students in families
* IHS culture training for incoming teachers
* Clear establishment of key teachers, leaders, and roles
* Family teachers have collaboration time over the summer
* Benchmark training for staff
* Literacy and Math training to help with underperforming subgroups
* Service Learning
* Incorporation in 10th and 11th grade levels
* Incorporation into all classes, not just those with benchmarks
* Training on how to teach lessons involving service learning
* Organize best practices
* Build consistency
* Promote student leadership and character education
* Purpose and vision of Advisory
* Increase opportunities for building community and meaning for each advisory
* Student selection (interest based)
* Needbased advisories
* Students remain with advisor for more than one year
* Advisors mentor advisees on benchmarks
* Data to action for under performing groups
* Literacy training
* Increased involvement by parents and community with at risk student groups
* Alignment of SchoolWide Outcomes and standards to curriculum & benchmarks
* Build up special programs/academic support for low achieving groups
* Career pathways for increased application to curriculum
* Revisit course offerings
* More representation in benchmarks
* More representation in families
* Guide career/academic pathways/themes
* Art magnet expansion
Please take a look at these six areas and the desired practices listed below them. Do they increase the quantity and improve the quality of interactions between students and staff members? Do they create schedules whose flexibility helps students learn more effectively? Do they support rigorous and relevant curriculum and instruction? Do they provide for interdisciplinary teaching and learning that supports student success?
If you have thoughts, based on your own observable experiences, please share them with me or with our SLC Site Coordinator, Michelle Lau, at Mlau@fremont.k12.ca.us. We are interested in positive reflective thinking that helps us continue to improve as we Continue the Journey.