The students and staff of George Washington Community High School are proud to be Continentals; their school has made great strides in the last two years, but the excitement doesn’t stop here. From new achievement opportunities through block scheduling to rewarding career opportunities for teachers and special recognition from the state Department of Education, there are many reasons to celebrate at George Washington!
One of the most exciting updates George Washington Principal Emily Butler is sharing with students, staff and families this spring is the school’s plan to shift to block scheduling. Beginning in the fall of 2016, George Washington will implement a new schedule with many intended benefits for students and staff. Teachers will have more prep time, allowing additional opportunities to make contact with families and students as well as preparing lessons. With the opportunity to earn 16 credits per term instead of the current 14, students who are working to stay on track for graduation can right set if they encounter obstacles. For example, a student who has had trouble in a course can return to the beginning of the course in the same year to catch up. George Washington students are taking advantage of Edgenuity, a blended learning program which assists students in credit recovery. In the first semester with Edgenuity, George Washington students recovered more than 130 credits!
All of these credit opportunities speak to the focus on college readiness that is apparent in the halls of George Washington. This week, dozens of college banners were installed throughout the school’s corridors – thanks to a grant from our supportive partners at Eli Lilly. Now, students have a constant reminder of their post-secondary goals! At the start of the school year, all students completed an audit of their transcripts and examined graduation requirements to ensure they have firsthand knowledge of what is needed to succeed.
“Having students do the work to figure out where they sit, rather than having an adult tell them, has been really effective because it helps students own what they’ve done so far and what still needs to be completed,” said Butler.
A new tradition at George Washington is the March to the Mailbox. Earlier this school year, dozens of students completed their first college applications and walked from school to a nearby mailbox to send their important paperwork out for consideration. More than 70 community partners and neighborhood supporters joined the band and cheerleaders to support seniors as they made the journey to mail their applications – people even pulled over as they were driving by to cheer them on! Students also held a college fair for the elementary schools that feed into George Washington; high school scholars researched their top choices for college and created presentations to share with their younger counterparts as they start thinking about their goals. The event was such a success, George Washington students have asked to put on a similar career fair and middle school prep fair in the future!
Maintaining a positive, welcoming and productive climate was a focus for Butler as she entered her second year as principal at George Washington. All staff members participated in Capturing Kids Hearts training, which is intended to foster respectful and positive relationships between students and staff. Students have come to experience consistent responses to situations from their teachers, and the staff training includes skill building of preventative practices to avoid many conflicts altogether. This structure has led to an uplifting climate in the halls and classrooms of George Washington, and it’s had an impact on disciplinary practices in school as well – suspensions have dropped significantly this year!
“It’s nice to hear positive feedback from students. I was recently talking with a community partner who asked how things were going, and a student piped in to say ‘it’s better – it’s a lot better.’”
The Indiana Department of Education has asked George Washington to participate in a collection of exemplary practices to share statewide as part of the Bicentennial Celebration. George Washington is highlighting increased communication with students and families regarding progress in academics and behavior. Every Thursday, students and families receive a printed progress report – outlining their grades, any missing assignments and other updates. Students and families know in real time how they’re doing so there are no surprises. A new program, Liveschool, is used to track positive behavior for students. Students have a small advisory group meeting weekly, and they complete reflections on their behavior and progress reports. Students also calculate their own GPA quarterly and compare the progress to admission standards at their preferred colleges and universities.
George Washington is participating in the Midwest pilot of Opportunity Culture, an innovative staffing model providing experienced teachers a chance to take on additional responsibilities and receive extra pay. With two of the highest-paid Opportunity Culture roles available – offering a stipend of $18.300 above the standard pay – Principal Butler is seeing a lot of highly-qualified candidates!
“It’s exciting because we have candidates who have gone from teaching to leadership or coaching roles with outside organizations,” said Butler, “and now they’re wanting to come back to a school setting where they can be compensated for their leadership and expertise.”
There’s a lot to celebrate at George Washington this year, and we look forward to continued achievement from the Continentals!