GOOSE LAKE — Northeast High School has been named a model high school by the International Center for Leadership in Education.

Five staff members will make presentations at the 16th Annual Model School Conference in Orlando, Fla., June 22 to 25.

Twenty-three model schools will be honored at the event, with Northeast being the only one from Iowa. Attendance at the conference is expected to be about 15,000.

The invitation came following a two-day visit by a representative of the New York-based center. Here are some of the findings in the report.

The Northeast School District serves five small rural communities covering 178 square miles. The population of approximately 3,000 people is made up primarily of blue-collar workers and farm owner/operators.

The high school, built in 1967, has been upgraded and refurbished over the years. An elementary school on the same campus was built in 1997.

“The facilities are among the best in eastern Iowa for small schools,” the report says.

Eighty percent of graduates pursue some form of post-secondary education, from technical schools to two- or four-year colleges.

The district attracts 20 percent of its student population, K-12, from surrounding districts. Seven percent of the students living in the district opt to open enroll to other districts.

In grades K-12, 15 percent qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Thirteen percent of students have disabilities.

Cornerstones

Cornerstones in the philosophy of the high school and district are the three Rs — Rigor, Relevance and Relationships.

High expectations and dedication to student success are key ingredients in making Northeast an exemplary model school, the report continues.

The staff truly believes failure is not an option.

The third R is achieved in an environment where students feel welcome, accepted, important, understood, safe and comfortable.

For the size of high school, there is an outstanding commitment to provide students with a diverse and comprehensive program of core and elective opportunities. The core includes graduation requirement of four years of language arts; three years each of mathematics, science and social studies; one unit each of health, career and occupational-related education, and four years of physical education.

Electives include Spanish (four years), business, fine arts (art, band and choir), family and consumer sciences, agriculture, industrial arts/technology, work study and service learning.

Students at Northeast typically meet or exceed state and national standards for reading, mathematics and science on standardized tests.

Work keys is an assessment given to all 11th grade students to determine their level of skills in reading and mathematics as they relate to workplace requirements.

Typically, between 80 and 90 percent of the students who are tested score at either proficient or high proficient levels.

Alternative school

For the occasional student who experiences obstacles that inhibit satisfactory progress in the regular school environment, Northeast provides an alternative environment to achieve high school graduation.

Eighteen students were served at the alternative high school this year, including open enrollees from Preston, Camanche, East Central and Clinton. Five of those students graduated this year with high school diplomas.

Lessons learned

Here are lessons to be learned from Northeast’s accomplishments, school officials said:

• Establishing relations with students is a key factor in forming and maintaining a positive school culture and learning environment.

• High expectations, coupled with a supportive and caring staff, enable a school to provide a rigorous and relevant education for all students.

• Creative solutions and partnerships can dramatically expand the opportunities and course offerings for students at smaller schools.

• A commitment to meaningful and sustained professional development can provide a common focus for staff as they look to improve instruction and improve the achievement of students.

• Data-driven decisions must be at the core of school reform.

• Every school has its own DNA and multiple measures must be used to determine school success.

• Being small doesn’t automatically mean students won’t fall through the cracks. A school must always provide adequate support mechanisms to ensure that no student is left behind.

Five will go to Orlando

Northeast High School principal Joe Jarvis and four other staff members will present a panel discussion in Orlando, Fla., demonstrating how a small school is able to provide opportunities and incentives for students to be engaged in learning, both in and outside of the classroom.

Other members of the panel will be Diane Schumacher, curriculum director, speaking on professional development; Jeremy Mosier, leadership teams; Julie Peters, rigor and relevance, and Kim Wilson, learning criteria.

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