Eastern High School Has Plan to Shake "Failing School" Status

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

Ernest Swain is enrolled in Eastern High School's International Baccalaureate program, not to mention a long list of extracurriculars.

"I'm president of the Key Club," Swain said. "I used to play football, and I think I'm going to run track again."

But as one of only eight seniors in the IB program, he's in the minority. For a seventh year in a row Eastern has failed to meet federal education standards. It missed the graduation target by a quarter of a percentage point, earning itself the label of a 'failing school' despite academic improvements.

Superintendent T.C. Wallace Jr. says it's a misnomer.

"In math, they exceeded, the state avergae. That's not a failing school," he said. "In reading, they exceeded the state average."

It has a plan to shake that title. Step one is giving students extra time to catch up on credits, either before or after school. Also, they plan on having a mandatory advisory period, so students can build relationships with teachers.

"The more relationships we build, the more relevant our instruction is, and the better kids will do," said Emily Oberlitner, the school's I.B. Coordinator.

It's something hard to do when classes can get as big as 40 students, though some I.B. classes are as small as 4, students say.

"It doesn't seem like we talk to them enough about our grades and what we need to do to graduate," said Swain.

Everything in the restructuring proposal falls under the umbrella of creating an academic culture and climate here on campus, something some say there's clearly not enough of.

"There's just some kids that aren't as interested as others," Swain said. "You can walk down the hall and see."

Swain says you get what you put in.

"I'm gonna be the first one to graduate from college in my family," he said.

The plan also sets aside time to help teachers develop professionally.

Superintendent Wallace says the district hopes to fund the changes by reallocating money it already has. If that doesn't work, it may apply for a federal grant.

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