Students and adults in Talent Development schools consistently report that their schools are safer, calmer, and more respectful learning environments as a result of TD reforms. Reorganizing the schools into a number of self-contained small learning communities or academies helps teachers learn each of their students’ names, keep the hallways clear and form stronger bonds with students and other teachers. Interdisciplinary teacher teaming further reinforces the physical organization through common planning time during which teachers develop integrated lesson plans and share information about the performance of their students in different disciplines. As a result, teachers and students have better relationships and teachers engage in more teamwork and collaboration, creating a more caring, trusting and effective school environment. Students respond to this kind of environment with higher attendance, better discipline, and higher levels of academic engagement.
Increasing Attendance Rates
Talent Development schools see consistently higher attendance rates and lower chronic absenteeism rates than comparable non-TD schools enrolling students with similar socioeconomic characteristics. Below are a few highlights:
- In 2010, average daily attendance rate at Chicago Talent Development High School (CTDHS) was 96.8%, more than 14 percentage points above the system-wide average of 82.6%. This was achieved with a student population that is about 99% minority, 99% from low-income families and 19% with a disability, representing a much higher concentration of at-risk students than the Chicago Public Schools as a whole.
- Attendance rate at Manual High School in Peoria,IL rose from 75.7% in the 2005-2006 school year to 87.0% in 2009-2010. This increase narrowed the gap between attendance rate at Manual and the district wide average almost threefold bringing Manual High much closer to being at par with other schools in the district.
- At Nottingham Middle School in Oxford Area School District in Pennsylvania, 2010 attendance rate was 96.1%, well above both the district and the state averages.
- At Baltimore Talent Development High School (BTDHS), chronic absenteeism, defined as the percentage of students missing 20 days of school or more, decreased by more than 13 percentage points since 2009, dropping for the first time below the citywide average of about 42%. BTDHS average daily attendance remains consistently above the average for demographically similar high schools in the city.
Transforming School Climate
Talent Development Secondary’s emphasis on personalization generates a positive learning environment characterized by clear expectations, cooperative behavior, and mutual respect. The following are examples of schools that have seen reductions in suspensions and dramatically improved school climate as a result of TD reforms.
- Between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 (the first year of TD reforms) Carver and Cohen high schools in the Recovery School District in New Orleans saw dramatic improvements in student behavior as evidenced by sharp decreases in the average number of days suspended from school per student.
- Between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 suspension rates (number of suspensions per 100 students) at Liechty and Hollenbeck middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District decreased from 19.2 to 10.6 and from 16.0 to 14.9, respectively.
- In the first year of district-wide implementation of Talent Development high school reforms in Syracuse City (NY), the rate of in-school suspensions decreased in four out of five Syracuse high schools leading to an almost 20% district wide decrease in in-school suspensions.
- Ware County High School also saw marked improvements in student discipline and teacher student relations. Percentage of teachers and students responding that “students disrespecting or talking back to teachers” is a “serious problem” at the school in the annual TD climate survey has been decreasing consistently since the beginning of TD reforms in 2008.
- Improvements in discipline and teacher-student relations at Ware County High School were accompanied by improvements in the overall learning environment, as indicated by the sharply lower percentages of teacher climate survey responders saying “very true” or “sort of true” to the statement “the learning environment in this school is not conducive to academic achievement for most students”.
- At Carver High School in New Orleans, the percentage of teachers responding that fighting among students is a serious problem at the school decreased by 60-percentage-points since 2009, and the percentage of teachers saying that students cutting classes is a serious problem decreased by 50-percentage-points. At the same time, the percentage of teachers responding that a calm school environment conducive to teaching and learning was better this year than last year increased by 45 percentage-points.
- Calmer, safer, and more personalized school environments are particularly important for ninth-grade students through their transition to high school. After implementation of TD reforms, the percentage of teachers agreeing that ninth-graders are adjusting to school better this year than last year increased markedly in all TD high schools in New Orleans. Syracuse City schools saw similar improvements; the proportion of teachers in the four newly added TD high schools (Corcoran, Fowler, Henninger and Nottingham) indicating that ninth-graders were adjusting to high school better in 2009-2010 was 16 percentage points higher than in 2008-2009 before TD reforms were implemented.
Engaging Students in Learning
Students in Talent Development schools show consistently higher levels of academic engagement and performance in their core classes. Following implementation of TD reforms many schools see immediate improvements in student satisfaction with school and coursework that ultimately translate into higher course and standardized test performance. Following are a few examples from high schools that started actively implementing TD reforms for the first time in the 2009-2010 school year and participated in the annual TD climate survey in the spring of 2010:
- At Cohen High School, the proportion of students saying that they would switch to a different school if they could was 10 percentage points lower than in 2008-2009 (the year before reforms were implemented) and the percentage of students saying that they really like coming to their math classes was 7 percentage points higher.
- At Carver High School , the percentage of students agreeing with the statement “I feel that most of what I am learning in school is pointless” decreased by 21 percentage points compared to the previous year, while the proportion of students saying that most days they enjoy coming to school increased by 11 percentage points.
- The proportion of Corcoran High School students saying that they learn new things instead of reviewing things they already know “Everyday” or “Several Times per Week” increased by 10 percentage points for English classes and by 19 percentage points for math classes.
- At West Philadelphia High School, the proportion of students who saying that they really like coming to class increased by 13 percentage points for English classes and 4 percentage points for math classes.