Creating Equity and Excellence at ConVal Regional High School
Creating equity and excellence in public secondary education for all students fits perfectly with ConVal Regional High School’s Mission, Core Values, and Beliefs. I have been fortunate to serve as the building principal at ConVal for the past five years. Those Core Values and Beliefs have led us to be the first high school to partner with SWIFT to help improve the learning opportunities for all students. We are also hopeful that sharing our own experiences, challenges, and successes will help pave the way for other students across the country.
We are very proud of the progress we have made over the past several years with regard to creating a positive, respectful, and inclusive atmosphere for students. We also realize we are on a journey, we don’t have all of the answers, and we must include students, teachers, parents, and community members in order to create sustainable change.
At ConVal, this inclusive philosophy to learning starts with a respectful culture, the foundation that makes anything possible. We created a vision that started with modeling kindness and respect instead of demanding those characteristics through compliance or policy. This approach has led to a dramatic turnaround in student discipline cases with a decline of more than 50% in the past five years. More importantly, we have created an atmosphere where students and staff support the learning needs of all students. Consider this observation from an Austrian Exchange Teacher visiting ConVal for just a few days:
“When you walk the hallways of ConVal High School, exchange teachers from Austria quickly develop a sense of envy because the school's atmosphere is so very friendly, but above all respectful and inclusive. Compared to high schools in Austria, ConVal is very well-equipped for instruction in all subject areas. It is possible, and indeed customary, to engage students in practical applications of their learning.”
Five years ago, in combination with this positive and inclusive atmosphere, ConVal created a personalized flexible block of time (43 minutes) for all students in the middle of our school day called Teachers in Academic Service Centers (T.A.S.C.), which is at the heart of our ability to personalize learning. This model includes timely academic supports, enrichment, and extensions while also providing for the social and emotional needs of all students in a timely manner.
This flexible time is guided by principles that empower student choice and allow for creativity from both teachers and students. T.A.S.C. sets the foundation as we lead away from the soon-outdated belief that high test scores always lead to successful careers and productive lives. This model is guided by an easy-to-use software program from the company “Enriching Students” and allows public secondary schools to put into practice what used to be only good in theory.
Public Secondary Education is evolving and systems to personalize learning for all students is possible through a belief system, a culture, and a flexible model to pull it all together. We are excited to continue our journey and work collaboratively with educators across the country to make a positive difference for all students.
Brian Pickering and Leander Corman