It may be rivalry week in LA (Go Bruins!), but I can’t help feeling proud of Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights. My high school and LAHS were rivals, but that’s only relevant when it comes to sports.
LAHS was featured as one of four “high-impact” high schools in The Education Trust’s just-released study “Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground.” The other three high schools were all in North Carolina.
Apparently, LAHS is doing something right in improving the academic attainment of minority students. The school is majority Latino (60.5%) and has about 8% English language learners, most of which are Spanish or Mandarin speakers.
According to the Education Trust, the main feature that sets apart LAHS as a high-impact (though not necessarily high performing) school was its “greater-than-expected academic gains with previously underperforming students.” The other high-impact schools also served significant numbers of either low-income or African-American, Native American or Latino students.
So what are high-impact schools doing right when it comes to closing the achievement gap? It all seems rather common-sense. Key elements for the successful schools were:
- Principals more likely to assign the most talented teachers to the ones that need them most rather than go by seniority or teacher preference.
- More thorough support for new teacher such as teaming novices with experienced colleagues.
- Catching kids who are doing bad before they fail. Los Altos requires students who are behind in math or English to take summer school.
For all we hear about the failings of LAUSD, it’s good to know that there are schools in the LA area that are doing something right.