National group names Albion one of 17 ‘schools of opportunity’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 May 2015 at 2:09 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers – Chris Rivers holds up his diploma in the high school gym last June, when he and 165 other students celebrated their graduation from Albion.

ALBION – Albion High School has been picked as one of 17 schools in New York and Colorado that meet an opportunity gap, helping students reach their potential despite issues with poverty and other challenges.

Charles C. D’Amico High School in Albion has been selected by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado with a “School of Opportunity” designation. These outstanding schools demonstrate a range of practices that ensure that all students have rich opportunities to succeed, the center said in a news release.

“Our selection as one of the 17 schools in New York and Colorado recognizes and reinforces our efforts,” said Michael Bonnewell, Albion Central School superintendent. “Additionally, it provides us with information about the efforts of 16 other high performing schools that we can consider as we strive to continuously improve our own program.”

Bonnewell said the community, Board of Education and staff have all worked hard to provide opportunities for student success.

The schools picked all put students first before test scores, the National Education Policy Center said.

“Current ratings programs aimed at identifying the nation’s best high schools include many high-quality schools,” said Carol Burris, co-leader of the School of Opportunity initiative. “But the approach they use tends to reward schools that are affluent or those that enroll a selective group of students. It is time we recognize schools that do outstanding work with a wider range of students.”

Burris is principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, NY. She is jointly leading the School of Opportunity initiative with Professor Kevin Welner of the Boulder School of Education, who directs the NEPC. Burris was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

“The schools we’re recognizing with this new project are all places you would crave to have your own children attend,” Welner said.

The Schools of Opportunity project highlights excellent practices designed to expand student opportunity and access to academic success. The program was piloted in just two states – Colorado and New York – in the 2014-2015 school year. Next school year, the project will include high schools nationwide.

The recognition of the 17 schools is based on 11 specific principles identified by experts in the 2013 Oxford University Press book, Closing the Opportunity Gap, which Welner edited along with Stanford University Professor Prudence Carter.

Specific practices include effective student and faculty support systems, outreach to the community, health and psychological support, judicious and fair discipline policies, little or no tracking, and high-quality teacher induction and mentoring programs.

The opportunity gaps facing the nation’s children arise from poverty, racism and other societal ills much more than from anything taking place in schools, said Burris and Welner. But schools are nonetheless important, and they can make a real difference in children’s lives, they said.

“We hope,” Welner said, “that this project will help move the nation past the constraining and wrongheaded discussion of school quality that focuses on ‘Problems, Statistics and Labels.’ Students and educators, as well as parents and researchers who spend time on our high schools, know that quality schooling comes from excellent practices.”

For more information on the Schools of Opportunity, click here.