Whale Branch earns regional recognition for academics

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From staff reports

Whale Branch Early College High School has been honored by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) as a 2020 Pacesetter Award School for ensuring that students receive support to graduate college and/or be career ready.

The SREB is a nonprofit compact of 16 states stretching from Delaware to Texas.

The 2020 Pacesetter School Awards recognize 23 high schools and career centers across the SREB’s 16-state region that are implementing one of the organization’s Making Schools Work school improvement frameworks and are achieving success in meeting bold goals related to increases in student graduation rates, readiness for college and careers, and credential attainment.

Whale Branch Early College High earned a Good rating on its 2019 state school report card, up from an Average rating five years ago. The high school’s on-time graduation rate improved from 71.4 percent five years ago to 90 percent in 2019.

“This recognition exemplifies the dramatic progress that Principal Dickson and her Warrior Nation team continue to make in putting students’ success and learning front and center,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said in a release.

SREB said Whale Branch “takes a student-centered, data-driven approach to decision-making. By putting the student at the center of every decision, Whale Branch has implemented strategies and processes to ensure student success. Data are collected to determine what students know and can do by assessing them before, during and after lessons. This allows teachers to conference with students one-on-one if corrective instruction is needed.”

“Warrior Nation has put an incredible amount of time and effort into building the capacity and effectiveness of our teachers,” Principal Mona Lise Dickson said in a release. “When teaching improves, learning improves.”

SREB said the high school identifies academically struggling students and offers them targeted individual assistance.

“The school declared war on mediocrity by implementing ‘Warrior Time,’ an advisory and extra help period. Students who do not meet criteria in a particular class return to that class for extra assistance until they have no missing assignments and tardies and have earned a grade of 85 in the class. Students also use an ABC Check-in Google form every four weeks after progress and report cards are issued to reflect on their absences, behavior and grades. Students use the data to take corrective actions, and the school uses the data to distribute resources to assist each student.”

The 2020 Pacesetter award marks the second SREB recognition for Whale Branch Early College High, which two years ago was honored as the organization’s first Platinum-Level “Ready-Certified” high school.

In 2018, SREB cited Whale Branch for its outstanding teaching and leadership with SREB Readiness Courses.

The SREB said that after implementing math and literacy Ready courses, Whale Branch has seen more than a 30 percent increase in under-prepared students meeting the college-readiness English benchmark, and success in Algebra I has reached an all-time high of 78 percent among students who took Ready for High School Math.

Prior to recognizing and certifying Whale Branch in 2018, the SREB evaluated student achievement data over time and also conducted an on-site visit to meet with teachers and school leaders.