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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 6, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 41
Talent Development High Schools rated highly by Dept. of Education

By Mary Maushard

Talent Development High Schools, a national reform model developed at Johns Hopkins, received the second-highest rating for promoting students through school in an independent review by the U.S. Department of Education. As a result, Talent Development will be listed as an effective research-based plan for reducing dropouts by the What Works Clearinghouse, the department's source of scientific evidence of what works in education.

The clearinghouse posts only programs that are shown to be effective, according to its strict standards of research. Its report on Talent Development is based on a study in 11 Philadelphia high schools, five of which used the Talent Development reforms for several years and six where no reforms were implemented. In this study, Talent Development shows "a statistically significant positive effect," according to the clearinghouse report, posted July 18 on its Web site,

The report found that "students using Talent Development High Schools earned an average of 9.5 course credits over the first two years of high school, while comparison group students earned 8.6 course credits. In addition, students at Talent Development High Schools were more likely to be promoted to 10th grade than comparison students (68 percent to 60 percent)."

Robert Balfanz, a co-director of Talent Development High Schools and a research scientist at Johns Hopkins' Center for Social Organization of Schools, said, "It is heartening to see the growing number of independent reviews and research studies that validate both the Talent Development High Schools' vision of school improvement and its impact on student success. When we get students to attend more frequently, help them close their skill gaps, teach them time management and study skills, engage them in learning by linking it to the real world and provide teachers and administrators the support they need to accomplish this, then we see students passing more courses, being promoted on time and ultimately graduating in greater numbers prepared for adult success."

More than 100 high schools in 15 states are using Talent Development.

The model uses a college preparatory curriculum for all students, combining a district's curriculum with extra help for those students who start high school below grade level in reading and/or mathematics. Its hallmarks are 90-minute class periods, a separate ninth-grade academy to help students make the transition to high school, special courses to prepare students for demanding high school work, teachers who work in teams and intense professional development, including in-class coaching, for teachers.


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