• We combined academic rigor with a stress on caring relationships and an insistence on zero tolerance for students’ not succeeding.
The students then received relentless support from teachers, who maintained a “whatever it takes” attitude in their support for both academic and emotional student needs. Teachers, counselors, and administrators alike were dedicated to each student’s success. If a student did not learn using traditional classroom instruction, other methods were used, such as one-on-one computer-based interactive learning for math, project-based learning, small-group or individual tutoring with college tutors, and computer-based reading programs.
• We varied instructional time according to need. Our mentality was to produce success no matter how long it took. If students did not learn and weren’t able to demonstrate achievement within the school day, we offered them after-school tutoring.
• We made proactive use of summer school. To begin the gap-reduction process as soon as possible, all entering students were expected to attend a “summer bridges” program before starting their first semester.
• We instituted common, consistent instructional strategies. It is not enough to align instruction with state standards. It also must include advanced instructional techniques that build on one another and are extended to all subsequent coursework.
As the alliance’s chief academic officer, I walked the classrooms with school administrators as a way to help them shape teacher practices. The process we used might be called professional development and reflection about instructional practice on steroids.