International High School of New Orleans Uses Grant Money to Transform School and Community
By Cody Downey @codyalexdowney
Thanks to a grant provided by the Department of Education, the International High School of New Orleans plans to work on a School Climate Transformation program to not only impact their students but their community.
The grant awarded the school a total of $1,384,861, which has been broken up into portions to be used for five years ending in 2023. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the grant is given to schools “implementing an evidence-based multi-tiered behavioral framework for improving behavioral outcomes and learning conditions for all students.”
International High School of New Orleans Head of School Sean Wilson said that the school decided to apply for the grant after seeing an increase in students needing both social and emotional support.
“When we learned of the grant, we thought it was a good fit for the work we were intending to do, that needed additional resources to make happen,” Wilson said. “The funds from the grant will allow us to start new initiatives that will alter the social programs, well-being, and resources that will continue our school’s goal for preparing our students for an international community.”
In deciding which programs and initiatives would be funded, Wilson said the school’s faculty and staff came together to collaborate on it along with looking at school data.
“We included our social workers and school counselors so that we could have truly a comprehensive veil of what our needs are,” Wilson said.
As a part of their School Climate Transformation Program, six new programs and initiatives are going to be added to the school. These include Capturing Kids’ Hearts, Link Crew, new teacher support, data system professional development, trauma-informed prevention programming, and parent engagement and education.
Capturing Kids’ Hearts
Developed by Flippen Group, Capturing Kids’ Hearts is a program designed to help teachers and other educators learn to establish meaningful relationships with students, while also still providing a good education. Wilson said that the program will help teachers engage with their students in a resonating way.
“When there is something that has gone awry, oftentimes the idea is lecturing students to get them to do the right thing,” he said. “But, Capturing Kids’ Hearts is more about questioning them. What is it that they are doing? What are they supposed to be doing? What are the next steps of consequencing them?”
Along with implementing the program, classrooms will also come up with a social contract to set rules and guidelines that they can all agree on. According to Wilson, these social contracts will help both students and teachers hold each other accountable.
The school is doing work that is training the adults on how to work alongside with students, which is opposed to injecting or subjecting students to a list of rules. “The process is not in conflict with the school. It is actually to support the school by allowing students to work within these goal lines as this group,” Wilson added.
Hoping to mold their students into leaders, the Link Crew at the International High School of New Orleans will begin by training upperclassmen in becoming leaders.
Wilson said that the program should take five years to get to where he wants it to be.
“The idea was that by the time we start the Link Crew program the current ninth graders will be seniors,” he said. “By the time this program culminates, we’ll have had three or four years of experience of Link Crew in training students on how to be leaders in their classrooms, in their school community and, hopefully, in the broader community.”
New Teacher Support
According to Wilson, he wanted to take on this initiative because of the concerning teacher turnover rates in education.
“We found the greater the number of times we support a teacher, the greater it increases their success in the classroom, and it also increases the probability of them remaining with the organization long term,” he said.
This data inspired Wilson to add this program to the school’s new initiatives.
“We had decided to lay out a platform where teachers are receiving more coaching and mentoring from not just our leadership but outside organizations and agencies to help them become more experienced in their craft as well as helping them to understand more of what is expected of them as educators and facilitators of learning in the classroom,” he said.
Data System Professional Development
With this initiative, Wilson said that teachers would be learning how to use and work with data to help identify which students may need more help than others.
“If there is a gap or divide in the classroom, they can have a proctor through the use of that data to determine ways to make those students who are lagging catch up while, at the same time, allowing students who are accelerating to accelerate without throwing down their progress as well,” he said.
Trauma-Informed Prevention Programming
This programming, in conjunction with the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, will teach the adult staff members on practices of instruction through a trauma-informed lens.
“This instruction is to help enlighten staff of the traumatic experiences students may have encountered that are impacting their learning opportunities,” he said. “These practices are about empathic instruction, helping students realize the power of their voice and action.”
Parent Engagement and Education
For Wilson, one of the main areas of concern for the school is parental engagement. “Traditionally in education, there is usually very high parental involvement in the lower grades, and we tend to see a trend downward in terms of parents giving space once you get into high school,” he said.
“That number is even more prevalent in high poverty schools and school districts.”
Wilson wondered how to get parents engaged in their students’ education. The school will now be focusing on letting parents know about the different services they provide, along with providing them with resources for places where they could further their education.
“We are working to ensure that our parents are engaged in the learning of their children and then also give them the desire to increase their knowledge base,” Wilson said. “Ideally, the more educated the parents are, the more they begin to preface their children on the importance of their education and, ideally, would help improve the academic outcomes of our students.”
Along with these programs and initiatives, International High School will be adding a new full-time school social worker to help provide Tier 2 and Tier 3 social-emotional interventions.
Wilson said that this addition is to help provide students with the tools they need as they move into adulthood. “There are assumptions that schools will be first bases that move students into better social positions in terms of learning to navigate society,” he said. “We felt that with the amount of trauma that our students may have seen in their lives and also some of the challenges that some of our students have to experience, that it would benefit us and them to have an additional social worker on site.”
With these implementations, Wilson hopes that the school can achieve several goals. For Wilson, these goals include moving closer toward a 100 percent graduation rate, decreasing the number of days students are absent, and increasing staff retention.
As the school moves toward the future, Wilson said that these new additions will help serve his school in helping everyone involved in their community thanks to the grant.
“The grant was a great push for us to move into providing some of these social and emotional supports that our students need as well as providing our faculty and staff with tools that are needed,” he said.