The Urban High Schools Principals Forum is a CASDA initiative that brings together educators from Hudson, Gloversville, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Cohoes, Amsterdam and Watervliet in an effort to confront the unique challenges facing urban school districts. By presenting a logical framework to identify problems, relevant materials to stimulate ideas and facilitating interaction with peers facing similar challenges, the forum equips leaders with the means to initiate positive change in their communities.
With a broad goal of improving graduation rates, the Urban High School Principals Forum recently identified failure in Integrated Algebra and Global Studies as two subject areas that caused students to drop out of school. At the Forum’s October 8 meeting, department leaders in Math and Social Studies from member schools were asked to join the group in order to identify problems and develop strategies specific to their disciplines.
During the meeting, each school group was asked to identify four primary causes for high failure rates in these areas. While responses varied by district, many schools cited insufficient literacy across all subjects, an absence of data driven instruction and a lack of clearly articulated pedagogical strategies as fundamental reasons for poor performance. Based on these identifications, each district set a specific improvement goal measured the percentage of students passing the State Regents exams June 2015.
In an effort to devise and articulate comprehensive best practice strategies, the leaders from each school’s Math and Social Studies departments were asked to collaborate with their subject colleagues. This allowed educators the space to confront the issues cited by the principals as well as difficulties specific to their disciplines such as curriculum emphasis, grading and student engagement with the material.
As the department heads worked together to share promising practices, the principals observed their deliberations in a “fishbowl” setting. This allowed the forum to examine not only the specific problems of improving performance in Integrated Algebra and Global Studies, but also the broad mechanisms at play in the problem solving process.