Mayors' Education Advisors Focus on High School Reform, Support for Learning

Article excerpt

High school reform, out-of-school time programs and efforts to expand college access are just some of the strategies that mayors and their senior education advisors are implementing to improve local schools and increase graduation rates in their cities. These and other topics were the focus of a recent semi-annual meeting in San Diego of the Mayor's Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN).

Sponsored by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, EPAN is a national network of mayoral education aides from the nation's 75 largest cities working on school improvement.

During the meeting, 20 EPAN members had the opportunity to visit a dynamic, new-design San Diego high school, dive into policy topics such as connecting in-school and out-of-school time and supporting the high school-to-college transition, and launch their own discussions on high school dropouts, college completion and the achievement gap among groups of students.

Embracing High School Alternatives

EPAN members have embraced municipal leadership for alternative high schools as an essential part of any city strategy to increase graduation rates.

During the meeting, speakers from The Big Picture Company and the National Association of Street Schools (NASS) infused ideas about how cities can work with alternative high school program providers to build public will for expanded high school options. NLC and The Big Picture Company are co-conveners of the Alternative High School Initiative (AHSI)--a network of youth development organizations committed to creating educational opportunities for youth who have struggled in traditional high school settings; NASS is one of 12 members of AHSI.

A visit to High Tech High, a school model now being replicated nationwide, showcased one unique option for high school in San Diego. With student and staff guides, visitors witnessed how the school's design principles of personalization, adult world connection and common intellectual mission show up in the small school population, project-based learning and a school culture conducive to learning. Larry Rosenstock, founder of High Tech High, reminded the group that when it comes to expanding options in the current global economy, "it's not about competition, it's about cooperation."

The meeting also provided EPAN members with an opportunity to learn from University of California-Los Angeles Professor Jeannie Oakes and Stanford University Professor Milbrey McLaughlin. …