Project Surveys Community Based Organizations High Schools A new report aims to promote awareness at the state level of the importance of Community Based Organizations (CBO) high schools, highlighting the promising lessons these schools hold for improving the educational outcomes of youth at risk of school failure or dropping out.
The report, “CBO High Schools: Their Value and Their Needs in an Era of Accountability,” released by the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) High Poverty Schools Initiative, is based on a survey of six CBO high schools in five states and the local and state educational agencies that provide them support.
CBO high schools are public schools serving a disproportionately large number of low-income and educationally disadvantaged students who have not succeeded in “traditional” public education programs. Operated by not-for-profit community-based organizations, these diploma-granting programs represent a last chance option for many young people to acquire the basic skills needed for future careers and lifelong learning.
Within the context of broader school reform, the report details the research-based instructional strategies common to all CBO schools, such as small learning communities, reduced student-teacher ratios, and individualized and experiential approaches to learning. The report also outlines key challenges faced by CBO schools today such as funding, staffing, assessment and accountability, and professional development.
For instance, though most CBO schools receive assistance from private institutions, these schools rely mostly on public sector allocations. Inconsistent policies concerning the use of public sector funds, however, have contributed to an overall funding environment for CBO schools that is not always stable or adequate.
In addition, low teacher salaries and benefits, often strained by the programs and direct services CBO schools provide, hinder staff recruitment. Most teachers at CBO schools are certified to teach in the subject they are teaching, but many have not received adequate training to address the unique needs of out-of-school and older youth.
In regard to assessment and accountability, conventional accountability systems do not easily accommodate the varied circumstances and irregular performance records of students at CBO schools. To measure student progress, most CBO schools practice alternative assessment approaches in addition to state requirements. Whether and how these approaches should align with the assessment and accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act remain unclear, according to the report.
The report urges education agencies to ramp up political and fiscal commitments, and to provide strong leadership in continuous improvement of CBO school best practices.
Key recommendations focus on improving data collection to enhance standards alignment and instructional methods; developing, supporting and strengthening existing networks at the state and local level; ensuring that CBO schools receive their fair share of state resources; and providing strategic supports to improve instructional practice and expand the recruitment pool among teachers.
The CCSSO is a bipartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy and technical assistance on major educational issues.
For more information on the report visit the CCSSO Web site at <www.ccsso.org>.
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