The book describes two similar and successful models of youth mentoring used by two acclaimed urban high schools that have consistently achieved exceptional graduation rates. Providing a detailed description of their methods - based upon extensive observation, and interviews with teachers, students, administrators, and parents - this book makes a major contribution to the debate on how to reduce the achievement gap.
Using similar teacher-as-youth mentor and youth advising models, these two inner city schools - Fenway High School in Boston, Massachusetts; and the Kedma School in Jerusalem - have broken the cycle of failure for the student populations they serve--children from underrepresented groups living in poverty in troubled neighborhoods with few resources.
Students in both schools have excelled academically, rarely dropout, and progress to college in significant numbers (Fenway has 90% graduation rate, with 95% of graduates going on to college. Kedma outperforms comparable urban schools by a factor of four). Both schools have won numerous awards, with Fenway High School gaining Pilot School status in Massachusetts, a recognition the state only awards to a few exemplary schools; and Kedma School being declared one of the 50 most influential educational endeavors in Israel.
The success of both schools is directly attributable to their highly developed teacher-as-a-youth mentor programs that embody an ideology and mission that put students at the center of their programs and structures. The models are closely integrated with the curriculum, and support the social, emotional, cultural, and academic needs of students, as well as develop close mentor-student-parent relationships. The model furthermore includes extensive support for the mentors themselves.
Apart from the potential of these models to narrow the achievement gap, these two schools have a record of creating a school climate that promotes safety, and reduces the incidence of bullying and violence. At the heart of both programs is creating community--between departments and functions in the school; and between teachers, staff, students, and parents. Everyone in the school system should read this book.
Research suggests that caring relationships between students and teachers significantly enhance Social Emotional Learning (SEL) -- defined as the process through which children develop their ability to integrate thinking, feeling, and behaving to achieve important life tasks -- which is recognized as an important factor in children's success in school.
However, caring schools are usually the exception, especially at the secondary level where relationships between students and teachers seem to deteriorate significantly. This book provides a schoolwide model for establishing caring secondary schools and enhancing SEL using a teacher-as-a youth mentor model.
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