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High Schools for Equity: Policy Supports for Student Learning in Communities of Color

By Diane Friedlaender Linda Darling-Hammond Alethea Andre Heather Lewis-Charp Laura McCloskey Nikole Richardson Olivia Araiza Susan Sandler Valentina Velez-Rocha

A large achievement gap is reflected in disparate test scores, graduation rates, and college-going rates for African American and Latino students in comparison with their White and Asian peers. Despite this gap, some high schools are beating the odds. The report documents the practices and outcomes of five urban high schools in California that do an extraordinary job of preparing their students for success in higher education, productive careers, and a fulfilling life. The schools, which are nonselective in their admissions and serve populations that are predominantly students of color from low-income backgrounds, include both district-run and charter-operated schools in California’s largest cities. The schools evaluated in this report include Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School in Los Angeles; June Jordan School for Equity and Leadership High School, both in San Francisco; Sacramento New Technology High School; and Construction Tech Academy in San Diego. The schools were selected because, as a group, they provide geographic diversity and illustrate unique school models in terms of educational approach and governance.

Although the schools in this study are distinctive and are located in varied urban communities, they have several design features in common. These design features, which are mutually reinforcing, aim to create personalized schools that offer rigorous and relevant instruction supported by professional collaboration and learning. These design features rely on multiple changes in school structures, belief systems, and pedagogical practices. The case studies in this report allude to practices that support student success, the design features of the schools that enable these practices, and the policies that support and sometimes obstruct schools’ ability to accomplish their goals.

This study focuses on how these schools are accomplishing their goals and how their approaches can inform state policies so that more schools can realize the same success. Recommendations are offered for policy reinforcements and changes that are needed to develop and maintain schools like these on a much broader scale so that they become the norm rather than the exception for students of color. Four policy areas are identified that significantly influence the ability of high schools to construct the practices that enable students of color from low-income backgrounds to succeed: human capital, curriculum and assessment, funding, and postsecondary education policies.


Posted with permission, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.