For the past three years, the Juneau-Douglas High School community has been putting itself under the microscope.
The self-examination, part of the process of accreditation, culminated last week with a visit from four educators who assessed the school's current situation and goals and gave JDHS a recommendation for accreditation.
Now, as that process comes to a close, the school will be following a "school improvement plan" created during the accreditation. The three-page section, tucked away in JDHS's nearly 200-page self-study, outlines goals for the school to work for from now until the next accreditation.
"For us, that was the most important part of the document," JDHS Assistant Principal Kathryn Milliron said of the improvement plan. "We wanted something that would move us forward the next five or six years - something that would be doable, measurable."
The 15 proposals, or "interventions," suggested in the plan are divided into three target areas: instruction, communication and school climate.
Instruction goals include:
Improving the guidance counselor-to-student ratio.
Developing school-to-work opportunities.
Addressing Native and minority success by increasing opportunities for academic assistance.
Improving staff skills in technology and instruction.
Communication goals include:
Fostering programs that promote student equity.
Creating a teacher mentor program.
Organizing parent outreach.
School climate goals include:
Creating smaller learning communities.
Improving the transition from middle school.
Developing a student, parent and teacher "Bill of Rights and Responsibilities."
The visiting accreditation team offered recommendations for additional goals to be added to the original list of 15.
Milliron said work on some of the goals is under way because the accreditation process started several years ago.
"When we started recognizing our weaknesses, we instantly started putting programs in place," she said.
For example, she said, the goal of creating smaller learning communities is on its way already with a building construction program, blocks of juniors and freshmen taking classes together, and the CHOICE program for students at risk of dropping out.
Students, parents and teachers were given the opportunity to contribute to forming the improvement plan both during the school's self-evaluation and during the team visit last week, and offered thoughts on steps the school should take to improve student performance.
"I'm thrilled that they asked what we think," parent and JDHS Site Council member Elsa Demeksa said. "They made me feel like I'm a partner in the education of my child."
Demeksa said increasing student involvement in extracurricular activities might be one way to lower the dropout rate.
"Academics and extracurricular activities are a marriage," Demeksa said. "Maybe if we kept (more students) here (after school), and provided extra-curriculars ... maybe that is one way that kids will feel a commitment to their education."
Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, a master's degree candidate who is student teaching at JDHS, said she hopes the school places emphasis on improving student performance on the upcoming state high school exit exam.
JDHS librarian Linda Thibodeau said her concerns included re-working the schedule to create smaller communities within the school, and trying to offer more choices of elective courses.
Seniors Brenna Hall and Kyle Barrill served as student representatives during the accreditation. Hall said the process was a learning experience, both "about all the great things about JDHS and all the things we can improve on."
Milliron said JDHS has adopted a motto - and a goal - of "education for all, excellence for all."
"We're not there yet, but it's what we want to work toward, and our school improvement plan is assisting us," she said.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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