Talent Development Schools
Demand For Johns Hopkins Whole School Reform Models Grow
This fall, nine middle schools and 23 high schools in 16 states are re-opening as Talent Development Schools, adopting comprehensive school reform models developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University's Center For Social Organization of Schools (CSOS).
The two models, designed for underperforming schools with low-income students, have doubled their total of participants this fall and have received requests to enter into even more schools next year. The increase in demand for these two programs reflects a national trend toward comprehensive or "whole school" reform in education improvement strategies.
Both the Hopkins middle and high school models involve specific changes in curriculum, professional development, community and parental involvement and, in the case of large urban high schools, even physical changes to school buildings. Early assessments show that the models work. Both Hopkins and independent researchers have found profound improvements in Talent Development Middle School students' reading comprehension, problem-solving skills and peer and teacher relations. Early evidence of effectiveness in the Talent Development High School Models report significant improvements in student attendance, promotion rates and in school climate for both students and teachers.
The Talent Development Models: Education researchers at CSOS created the reform models based on the premise that all students can learn challenging material if given the right support. The planning of these curricula is based on the best research conducted over the past few decades on middle school and high school practices and programs. Both programs have been in the research and development phase in urban schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., since 1995. In most cases, the models take about three years to be fully implemented in all grades.
Most schools taking on Talent Development models are taking advantage of new federal grants available to under-performing schools with high populations of poor students that adopt research-based comprehensive school reform. Both the Hopkins' middle and high school model require an 80 percent "buy-in" vote by the school staff.
"These are bold schools; it takes courage and commitment to take on such sweeping reforms," said James McPartland, director of Hopkins' CSOS and the Talent Development High School program. "But what we're finding is that the staff of these schools have a real hunger to create a safe, serious learning environment in their schools, a place where the success of every student is possible."
The Talent Development Middle School (Doug MacIver, director): This model introduces a new curriculum into schools with an aim of having every eighth grade student studying algebra, reading and analyzing great literature, performing hands-on science experiments and interpreting original documents from our nation's history. It introduces methods to enhance effective instruction of diverse students, guidance experiences that encourage college aspirations and provide realistic steps toward different post-secondary options. It offers time within the school day for extra help for students who are falling behind and electives for students who aren't.
In a typical Talent Development Middle School, up to 300 students a year receive an extra 10 to 12 weeks of instruction in mathematics and reading. It provides teachers with continuous support; they receive about 38 hours of professional development per subject per year for at least two years. The model also develops parent and community partnerships that connect students' schooling with their families and communities. In addition to the nine middle schools that will open this fall, more middle schools in Detroit, Mobile and Memphis are slated for training and implementation in January.
The Talent Development High School (James McPartland, director): Research shows that students drop out of high school for four reasons: anonymity or social estrangement; apathy or lack of purpose; failure, especially in ninth grade; and personal problems such as drugs or pregnancy. In the lowest-performing high schools in many cities, two-thirds or more of students never earn a diploma. The Talent Development High Schools program attempts to transform those schools by, among other things, dividing large high schools with about 2,000 students into smaller units, including a ninth grade academy and other academies based on career themes for students in upper grades. This often requires physical, structural changes; each academy is self-contained, with its own faculty, management team, section of the building and entrances and exits.
All students are required to take college-preparatory courses in the major subjects: English, mathematics, science, history and social studies. Separate program tracks, like college prep, general and vocational-business, are eliminated, replaced by a single common academic program of demanding courses for all students within each academy. Students working below grade level receive extra help during and after school hours. In the ninth grade, three new Talent Development courses are offered to help poorly prepared students catch up in Reading, Mathematics and the study skills needed for advanced high school work. Students working above grade level have access to advanced courses, courses at local colleges and internships. Each student also has the same home room teacher from grades 10 to 12, who acts as an advisor to the student throughout high school.
A separate, after-hours Twilight School is also held in the building for students with serious attendance or discipline problems, including students recently released from prison or suspended from another school.
Where are Talent Development Schools? Of the nine Talent Development Middle Schools opening this fall, eight are in Philadelphia and one is in Vallejo, Calif. Additional schools in Memphis, Tenn., Mobile, Ala., and Detroit are also slated to implement the reform model this winter.
Talent Development High Schools will open in the following districts: Belle Glades, Fla., Newburgh, N.Y., Lawrence, Mass, Detroit, Mich., Newark, N.J., Fort Wingate, N.M., Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, Reading, Pa., Flandereau S.D., Salt Lake City and Layton, Utah, Milwaukee,Wis., Escambia, Ala., Columbus, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pa. and Baltimore. Md.
For contacts in these schools, please call Leslie Rice at 410-516-7160 or Marc Cutright at 410-516-8810
What is CSOS? The Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) was established as an educational research and development center at The Johns Hopkins University in 1966. Much of CSOS research and field development is funded under the aegis of a federal research grant and program, the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk, in which Hopkins' partner is Howard University. CSOS is also the birthplace of Success For All, a comprehensive elementary school reform model developed by Hopkins researcher Bob Slavin, which is now in 1,525 elementary schools across the country.
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