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Special Event: What Great Public High Schools Can Accomplish


Public high schools are full of potential. When they take on the tough but doable work of enhancing equity, they expand educational opportunity, create environments that are safe and welcoming for students, and provide curricula that is at once rigorous and rich.

In a free, live web event this evening (7-8:30 p.m. Eastern; 4-5:30 p.m. Pacific), Diane Ravitch of the Network for Public Education continues a series of conversations that explore key issues facing America and the education of its students. Her guests will be Professor Ted Hamann of the University of Nebraska, Mark Larson, principal of Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, and NEPC director Kevin Welner of the University of Colorado. The Network for Public Education is sponsoring the event.

The discussion will center on lessons learned from Schools of Opportunity, an NEPC program that recognizes public high schools that demonstrate a commitment to closing opportunity gaps. Although currently on hiatus, the program is the focus of a book published last month by Teachers College Press and edited by NEPC Research Associate Dr. Adam York, Welner, and Dr. Linda Molner Kelley, co-director of the Schools of Opportunity project.

The Schools of Opportunity book uses exemplary public high schools to illustrate and document how actual schools can and do close opportunity gaps by using research-based practices to challenge and support their students. In a chapter about building on the strengths of language-minority students, Hamann and Larson, working with Professor Janet Eckerson of the University of Nebraska Kearney, tell the story of Lincoln High School, one of the recognized Schools of Opportunity.

Lincoln High School’s remarkable achievements came to light through a course project at the University of Nebraska. Professor Hamann had his graduate students use the Schools of Opportunity evaluation/scoring rubric to learn about Lincoln High School during an assignment in which they visited and observed schools. The students interviewed students, teachers, and administrators at the school, and they came away from the experience so impressed that they took the lead in completing an application for the school to be recognized as a School of Opportunity.

Immigration and refugee resettlement provides Lincoln with students from around the world, speaking 30 different first languages. For Principal Larson and his colleagues, these students have been an embraced resource. “Lincoln High takes seriously its century-plus role of being a beacon and anchor of the community,” Hamann, Eckerson, and Larson write in their book chapter. “That community now speaks multiple languages and represents most of the globe in terms of ethnic origin, and it too finds welcome and embrace at LHS.”

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