Aiming High contains ten chapters, a Reflection
Tool to determine a school's progress in
implementing a standards-based educational system, and a Glossary
of Terms. The chapters are:
Chapter 1, "Using Standards-Based Education to Raise the Bar," begins with the backdrop of California's new "hourglass" economy. To be economically self-sufficient, students need access to the top of the hourglass--jobs with good pay and the greatest growth rate--but those occupations require significant postsecondary education or training. To remain economically viable in the global economy, the state must meet the labor market requirements and produce employees who think and function at high levels. For this country to survive as a democracy, students must have the skills and knowledge to exercise both the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship.
Chapter 2, "Understanding Standards, Assessment, and Accountability," guides the reader through standards, tests, and accountability measures and then focuses on how to target a manageable number of key standards. "High-stakes tests" for schools and students are explained in relation to the state standards, and both mandatory and voluntary tests are analyzed in terms of helping the school focus on a key set of standards. The standards and outcomes chosen should align with state-mandated assessments, such as the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), and local accountability measures, such as Expected Schoolwide Learning Results.
Chapter 3, "Creating the Context for Standards-Based Education," focuses on developing a school community culture to support the standards movement. It details the roles of the local school board, district administrators, principal, faculty, and school staff in implementing the standards system and discusses the need for professional development and resources to support the effort. A section on vertical alignment with feeder middle schools stresses the new importance of ongoing dialogue and coordination between high schools and middle schools because of the high percentage of items on the CAHSEE that reflect middle school academic content standards.
Chapter 4, "Implementing Standards-Based Instruction and Assessment," directly addresses the issue of classroom implementation. This chapter offers a step-by-step guide to implementing standards-based instruction and assessment in the classroom. How to design effective in-class assessments is emphasized because assessment design precedes instruction. A section on grading identifies approaches to reconciling a standards-based educational system with traditional grading practices.
Chapter 5, "Initiating Instruction and Assessment of Local Outcomes," reinforces the principle that local outcomes and the state academic content standards together form the cornerstone of school improvement. The chapter provides strategies for creating a context for instruction and assessment. It also identifies four categories of local outcomes: curriculum standards, end-of-course outcomes, graduation requirements, and expected schoolwide learning results.
Chapter 6, "Supporting Student Academic Success," presents an array of academic supports that high schools may implement to ensure students' opportunity to learn, institutionalize equity, and maximize student achievement. The understanding that all students can learn at high levels is rooted in research and is absolutely essential to a standards-based educational system. To translate this concept into reality, schools must provide extra help to students who are at risk of not meeting standards, help that often requires reallocating resources and redirecting teacher time. Details and examples are provided for many strategies, including tutorials within the school day, distance learning, and embedded support.
Chapter 7, "Creating Structural Supports for Student Success," presents ways of increasing the bonds between students and the school. Strategies include student-led conferences or exhibitions, advisories, and looping. A section on alternative scheduling discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various scheduling options. Because implementing standards in the classroom usually requires an enormous investment of staff time to craft new lesson and unit plans, assessments, and reporting systems, this section discusses how to ensure regular time for collaborative planning.
Chapter 8, "Promoting Family and Community Supports for Student Success," presents the components of a family and community support system that helps all students master rigorous standards and outcomes. Schools can choose from options to make "families as partners" a reality, not just a slogan, and bring in community organizations and businesses to support the effort. A section on developing strong partnerships with colleges and universities features strategies and resources to support increased student academic achievement and higher education aspirations.
Chapter 9, "Developing Academic Literacy for Student Success," focuses on the special needs of the more than 1.5 million English learners in the schools and other needs of students unprepared for the more demanding academic literacy. This section discusses English-language development standards and courses as well as techniques to assist English learners in attaining academic literacy and proficiency in targeted standards.
Chapter 10, "Using Data for Continual Improvement," reviews the types of data schools can gather, the need for data disaggregation, approaches to data analysis, and strategies for using findings to continually improve schools. Using various data to document the results of systemic reform--and adjusting programs in light of the results--is absolutely essential.