NYU graduate student and Pavement Pieces' journalist Brandon Gomez reports on NYC Outward Bound Schools 2016 College March at MELS Forest Hills.
- 98% of our 2016 graduates were accepted to college.
- 90% of our high school students graduate within 4 years.
- 73% of our students are eligible for free/reduced lunch.
Our schools primarily serve a high-needs population from neighborhoods where access to high-quality education has historically been lacking. 73% of our students qualify for free/reduced lunch. 21% are classified as having special education needs. Our students are predominantly Hispanic (39%) and African-American (31%).
Our students enter far behind grade level in key subject areas. Only 22% of our incoming 9th graders were proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) and 14% were proficient in Math. In all cases, our incoming proficiency rates were lower than the citywide averages.
Our high school graduation rates significantly outpaced the city average and exceed our 85% strategic plan goal. Our network’s average on-time graduation rate continued to increase from 82% to 90%, and surpassed the most recent citywide rate by 18 percentage points.
We are closing the achievement gap. Our 87% graduation rate for black students (vs. 65% citywide last year) and 89% rate for Hispanic students (vs. 64% citywide) exceeded the 82% citywide rate for white students.
College acceptances were very high among our graduates and approached our organizational goal of 100%. 98% of our 2016 graduates were accepted to college.
Our graduates are attending high-quality colleges and universities. Our most recent graduates (2015 and 2016) are attending colleges that include Cornell, Dartmouth, Brandeis, Bard, Hampshire, Pitzer, NYU, Skidmore, Barnard, Sarah Lawrence, Fordham, Howard, Franklin & Marshall, Muhlenburg, Trinity, Holy Cross and Middlebury, as well as the full range of SUNY and CUNY schools, among others.
Our students’ college enrollment continues to increase - and they are attending "good fit" colleges. The 6-month college enrollment rate of our 2015 graduates is 82%, surpassing our strategic plan goal of 75%. In addition, we continue to guide our students toward "good fit" colleges: 42% enrolled in programs with high completion rates as compared to 25% in 2013 and 69% enrolled in 4-year colleges as compared to 63% in 2015.
Our college persistence rates show promising early results. 83% of our 2014 graduates who enrolled in college persisted from first to second year, as compared to 77% the year before.
Our network schools consistently performed well on NYC Department of Education accountability measures:
- 96% of the time, our schools received the highest or second highest rating in their most recent Department of Education Quality Reviews, compared to 63% of schools citywide. And in 94% of cases across all categories of the School Quality Guide system, our schools were identified as good or excellent as compared to just 70% citywide.
Teachers consider our schools “great places to work”. Teacher retention across our network is high with 88% of teachers returning for the 2015-2016 school year. And in a survey we conducted of our teachers, 98% reported that our professional development is relevant to their practice.
Our students produce high-quality work and real-world products. Our students are required to examine real-world problems that need real-world solutions. They must think critically and creatively, synthesize complex information, and find solutions to 21st-century problems. These solutions are reflected in the real-world products they create - like water quality analyses presented to local and national elected officials, a published guide for new immigrants to help them transition to American culture, playground design concepts presented to architectural firms with city contracts, and public transportation proposals for MTA and public officials.
Our schools are increasingly recognized for their innovation and as models for others. Metropolitan was selected to be a host school as part of the NYC Department of Education's Learning Partner program which partners middle schools that employ exemplary practices with either new schools or schools in need of improvement. WHEELS was profiled on PBS as a successful school where individualized attention, an ethos of support, and strong sense of community has helped propel its 98% Latino student body toward academic and personal success. Hahn was spotlighted by the UFT as a school offering a model for “how high schools can be places where parents, communities, students, educators and other stakeholders can collaborate to achieve the best outcomes for students”. And Joshua Steckel, BCS’ College Counselor and co-author of Hold Fast to Dreams, and several of his former students were featured on the Leonard Lopate Show and at a New School event titled "Working Towards College Success: Obstacles and Strategies."
Our schools are increasingly identified as models within the national EL Education school network of over 150 schools. MELS and MAELS are two of only 23 schools nationwide to be credentialed by EL Education for their strong EL practices and success in promoting high levels of student achievement in the three areas EL considers most critical: mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high quality student work. Leaders is in the process of being credentialed this summer and hosted a national EL Education Site Seminar in the spring focused on the impact of shared leadership practices on student achievement. MAELS has been selected to host a fall Site Seminar and MELS has been selected to serve as an EL Education Mentor School. As a mentor school, MELS will open their school and practice up to other EL Education schools from across the country.
Our network of schools is increasingly recognized in New York City as a leader in innovation and model for others. The NYC Department of Education chose two of our schools (MELS and MAELS) to serve as Showcase Schools. Throughout the year, both schools will host visits from schools across the City to share their strong instructional practices and the leadership structures they have put in place to support these practices. Additionally, Channel View was lauded by the DOE for its successes in providing a supportive, inclusive environment for students with autism spectrum disorder through its involvement in the City’s Nest program.
Our schools and work are regularly recognized in the press. WHEELS was in the top 20 list of best 2016 NYC Public high schools in US News and World Report. ABC7's annual special, Protect Our Children, included a segment on our To & Through College work through the lens of Brooklyn Collaborative's college readiness and access program. American RadioWorks ran a feature-length documentary--"Beyond the Blackboard - Building Character in Public Schools"exploring the educational ideas of Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn and how his ideas inspired the founding of a national network of public schools using the EL Education approach. Mashable captured the growing spirit of our annual College March and the article was shared over 6,700 times.
Nationally-recognized leaders and writers cite our schools as models. David Brooks wrote a column in the New York Times entitled “Characters of Community” which pointed to Leaders as a prime example of a school that is successfully cultivating character and building community. In his new book “Helping Children to Succeed” Paul Tough cites WHEELS as a strong example of what works in providing low-income students with the social-emotional and economic supports they need to be successful. Mayor de Blasio lauded our College March during his “Equity & Excellence” education address.
Innovation & Best Practices
Our To & Through College Program is breaking new ground. Through this program we are providing a range of supports for our students to help them get into and complete college. These supports include:
-College March. This annual event in which seniors from all our network schools march their college applications to the post office has now been joined by a total of 22 schools from 11 cities. We have encouraged this replication through our open source online tookit on collegmarch.org and by sharing the practice at conferences such as the 2015 National College Access Network Conference.
-College Meet-Up Day. This annual event brings together graduating seniors from across our network schools to make connections with other students who are going to similar colleges. Over 250 students participated this year.
-College Bridge. In partnership with CARA we train recent graduates of our schools to provide near-peer mentoring as alumni coaches for students during the summer between high school graduation and their first semester of college. Almost 600 students received CARA coaching this year.
-Text Message Support. We have built out a text-messaging program to provide our students with reminders about upcoming college enrollment and persistence deadlines and provide individual support to those who respond with questions or concerns, reaching over 1,500 alumni from our schools.
-College Crew. Drawing on our successful Crew structure in our schools, we have established a college-level advisory program that brings together a group of our alumni currently enrolled in NYC based community colleges for weekly meetings that provide peer support and advocacy.
Our Crew Orientation Course is having a positive effect on school culture and provides students with opportunities for personal and interpersonal growth. Our Crew Orientation Course is a 3-5 day residential Outward Bound course that serves as an important school culture and community building vehicle for our incoming 6th and 9th grade students and their Crew Advisors (teachers). Over 950 students and about 90 Crew Advisors participated this year. On their post-course evaluation, students reported gaining important skills and attitudes from the course. 96% of students agreed or strongly agreed that “Crew Orientation helped me feel more confident about learning new skills.” And 100% of Crew Advisors reported that they felt better able to support the students in their Crew after the course.
Our schools are offering students opportunities to discover their passions, provide service, and study topics that really matter to them. Examples from this past year include:
-Naming a New Species. Working with the American Museum of Natural History, a group of 6th grade science students at WHEELS had a real-world experience that was unique even for most entomologists - they had the opportunity to name a newly discovered species of wasp native to the Dominican Republic.
-Taking Action on Pollution. At West End Secondary 6th graders participated in “Down the Drain”--a learning expedition exploring New York City's waterways and its connection to sewage and our aging infrastructure. They worked with filmmakers to produce videos to share what they learned and encourage others to take action to save our waterways, participated in the Billion Oyster Project and petitioned local and state politicians to make needed improvements to our sewer system.
-Designing a Park. Students from Leaders developed a proposal to redesign the concrete park across the street from their school and have been working with Mitchell J. Silver, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, to have their proposal become a reality.
Our schools are leading the way in implementing school-based restorative justice practices. The New York City Council, in partnership with the Department of Education's Office of Safety and Youth Development, named Baldwin and Leaders as two of only five schools designated citywide to serve as “Mentor Schools" in the practice of restorative justice. An alternative approach to punitive school discipline, restorative justice practices train students, staff and faculty to resolve conflicts through a variety of structured processes, such as peer mediation groups in which trained student facilitators mediate conflicts in small group settings. When effectively implemented, these practices have helped strengthen school communities, prevent bullying, and reduce student conflicts. The rate of disputes and incidents has declined at Leaders by over 70% since the school began implementing restorative justice practices.
Our schools are providing multiple ways for parents and families to engage in schools. Across our schools, Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) replace the traditional parent/teacher conferences and require students to lead the conversation and explain their progress toward academic and character learning targets. SLCs are proving to be a highly effective vehicle for involving parents in their children's education, with families participating in them at a rate of 95% this year across our network. We also offer numerous other ways for families to learn about our approach. For example, West End Secondary ran book clubs in which parents were asked to read and then come together to discuss books that highlight key aspects of the school’s educational approach and students led EL 101 workshops in which parents were introduced to key practices and structures of our model. As a result of this investment in supporting parents to fully understand the school’s approaches, parent teams ended up leading the orientation sessions that were held for incoming students and their parents.
Our schools are breaking ground in the area of performance-based assessment. Four of our schools - Baldwin, BCS, Leaders and Hahn - are part of the New York State Performance Consortium and receive waivers from the State allowing them to evaluate students using in-depth college preparatory projects in place of the Math, Science, and Social Studies Regents.
"This Educational Leadership Award... really goes to NYC Outward Bound, which does truly extraordinary work in the field of education."
-Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
“NYC Outward Bound is…defying the lie, defying the myth, defying the stereotypes about what children can and cannot do.”
—Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education
"Last week I visited [NYC Outward Bound's] Leaders School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, which is a glowing example of community cohesion... Students are given tremendous responsibility, and are put in challenging social circumstances that call forth compassion, judgment, sensitivity and mercy... Most of all I was struck by their kindness toward one another. No student could remember any racial or ethnic conflict. Many upperclassmen serve as peer mentors to the underclassmen. There’s a palpable sense of being cared for. That’s in part because the school has a wide definition of student achievement."
-David Brooks, Columnist, NYTimes
"What NYC Outward Bound does is create a sense of self-possession and a sense of ownership over what one does and over one's path - which is the key to so much of what works in education and, I dare say, to what works in life."
-NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
“NYC Outward Bound, we think the world of you. We think you are outstanding: all the energy, all the work and the vision that you have -- but more importantly, your partnership with the Department of Education will allow our students to grow and prosper and be successful adults."
-former NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott
“This kind of innovative school…is an example of how all our schools should be.”
—President Obama after visiting an Expeditionary Learning school in Washington D.C.
“Outward Bound’s involvement with the creation of new schools has had a direct impact of the success of our students. I appreciate your support as we build on our vision for public education: that all students will be given the tools they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.”
—Joel Klein, former Chancellor, NYC Department of Education
"In the years that I’ve been teaching, [EL Education is] the single best model of learning for kids and the most satisfying model for teachers, because the kids are working on real projects, their work holds great value, and you are stretching them academically."
—Jennifer Wood, teacher
“When you walk through the NYC Outward Bound schools, you really do get the sense that these kids are working with very high expectations, that they really are being pushed and prepared for college in all the ways possible.”
—Adam Tucker, Senior Program Officer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
College March Empowers First Generation Students December 12, 2016
NY1 Visits 2016 Brooklyn Collaborative College March December 9, 2016
Roger Clark, NY1 morning show reporter, spends the day at NYC Outward Bound Schools' College March at our Brooklyn Collaborative school. In addition to this piece which ran every hour throughout the afternoon, he also shot to segments that ran live at 7AM and 8AM.
NY1 Visits 2016 Gaynor McCown College March December 9, 2016
NY1 reporter Alyssa Paolicelli reports on NYC Outward Bound Schools 2016 College March at our Gaynor McCown school on Staten Island.