The New York Performance Standards Consortium, a network of 37 diverse high schools in New York state that stress in-depth teaching over high-stakes testing, have won a $25,000 American Federation of Teachers award for solution-driven unionism.
For 20 years the New York consortium schools have received waivers from four of the state's five standardized Regents exams (students still take the English Regents test). The focus on student performance measures other than state tests allows consortium teachers to emphasize critical thinking and problem solving, writing and discussion, open-ended questioning and student input. Students must also defend their work orally before external evaluators.
"The consortium schools have created a powerful alternative to a system built around high-stakes testing," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "If the Common Core is about getting kids ready for the 21st century, then this is a brilliant example of its adaptation."
The consortium model is getting results:
The network's dropout rate of 5.3 percent is less than half the rate for New York City high schools (11.8 percent). And 85 percent of graduates attended colleges rated competitive or better, and persisted in college at rates higher than the national average.
The schools have also produced success among African-American and Latino males, outpacing national rates. In 2011, 86 percent of African-American male consortium graduates and 90 percent of Latino male graduates were accepted to college (compared to national rates of 37 percent and 42 percent, respectively).