Core Elements of City High’s Design

Student-centered school design

Culture balancing rigor and relationships

Student ownership of learning

Student success

(1) Student-centered school design

Based on four years of data collection (including annual student, faculty, and parent surveys, analysis of grades, attendance, and assessment data, and intensive case studies tracing the academic development of individual students in the first graduating class), the evaluation team believes that the following are critical elements of City High’s model. By critical we mean the elements that most differentiate City High from a traditional high school and that most contribute to student success:

  1. Student/faculty cohorts stay together for 4-year cycle
  2. Year-round calendar and longer school day
  3. Solid grounding in research and presentation skills, culminating in senior project
  4. Career preparation with workplace visits, career investigation, mentoring, and a 130+ hour internship in the selected field
  5. Technology integration in academic subjects; instruction in advanced technology
  6. Untracked curriculum: all students participate in the same rigorous academic classes, with opportunities for extra support and challenge as needed
  7. Student-centered instructional approach: extensive use of project-based and other interactive and investigational forms of learning. Students are rarely sitting and listening- they are doing.

(2) Culture of rigor balanced with relationships

The design elements cited above enable a culture which balances challenging expectations with supportive, caring relationships. The cohort model is particularly crucial, allowing faculty to know each learner extremely well and both challenge and support them based on that specific knowledge of their capabilities. Our research shows steady increases in both the level of classroom challenge and the sense of trust and caring experienced by students the longer they are at City High.

(3) Student ownership of learning

The City High experience supports what research (particularly in Gates Foundation supported schools) has demonstrated: in an environment that balances rigor with relationships, students take ownership of their own learning, the underpinning for success. Both teacher ratings and students own attitudes and actions demonstrate increasing ownership over their own learning as they advance through City High.

(4) Student success

City High’s progress in achieving its mission of preparing students for college or careers is summarized below:
Class of 2006 – 70% of students that went to college graduated
Class of 2007 – 70-75% of students that went to college graduated
Class of 2008 – 70-73% of students that went to college graduated
Class of 2009 – 70% of students that went to college graduated
Class of 2010 – 63% of students that went to college graduated
Class of 2011 – 61% of students that went to college graduated