How Does A High School Athletic Program Become Great?

I have often wondered what makes excellence in high school athletics? I grew up in an high school that demanded excellence in all of their sports programs, boys and girls. But, it was not always that way. Actually, when I attended this high school, our school was very average in sports. But, during my senior year, something magical happened. It just seemed like all of our sports teams started to get better and better. We won the state championship that year in both boys basketball and football. The next year, the school won state in football, track, cross country and girls tennis. After that, my high school has never looked back. What happened? How did we go from being average to being great? What was the tipping point? Was it just a great class of kids? Was it the coaching staff? What happened?

Well, before I Get There, Excellence In High School Athletics Is Earned…

By comparison, many years later, I know of a high school that is just the opposite. Academics in the school are great. I really believe the teachers, administrators and coaching staff are terrific. And… so are the kids. But, on the athletic field or court, they just don’t have it. They finish at the bottom of the pack every year in every sport. Why? How can one school set records for the number of state championships, while another school sets records for the number of losing seasons?

I have had the fortune of being involved with both types of athletic programs. You would think that being involved with a winning program is much easier. I would beg to differ. Being involved with a winning program is much tougher than being involved with a losing program. It’s tougher on the administrator, the coach staff, the parents, and especially the players.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Here’s Why It’s Tougher…

Being involved in a winning athletic program demands excellence. Everyone in a winning program knows that winning requires a total commitment to excellence. Winners don’t take shortcuts. Winners come in early and stay late. Winners work-out in the off-season. The community demands winning. The school demands winning. The parents, the school administrators, the coaches… they all demand winning. In order to win… everyone must do their job. It’s just not performance on the field. That is actually the end result of each person’s everyday effort to reach the same goal… to win.

But, how does a high school get to that position? How to you go from bad to average to great. I believe it starts with the school administrators. The administrators of the school must develop this attitude. This attitude must then be demanded of the entire coaching staff. Being average is no longer an option. If the coach is not willing to demand excellence, to put in a 110% effort toward the development of their sports program… they are out. The coaches need to develop their current high school players. And… they need to work with the middle and elementary schools to develop their feeder program. They need to understand… being average is no longer an option. Period.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Parents Are Key…

After you get this attitude down with the coaching staff, the school needs to move on to the parents. A culture change needs to happen. Some people say this takes time. This is total nonsense. Excellence in athletics needs to happen now! The school needs to step up and tell the parents how things are going to change. The school needs to ask the parents for their help. Make no mistake, if the athletic program is going to change for the better, the parents must be a big part of the change. The school needs total buy-in from the families. Everyone needs to understand that winning comes with a price. If everyone is willing to pay the price… winning will happen. The school might not win the state title every year, but more kids from that school will play sports in college, and the school will see a huge positive difference in their athletic program.

To get this all going, it takes one person. One person in authority at the high school needs to stand up and say “enough!!!.” Until that happens, nothing will change. One person needs to stand up. In my school is was the athletic director. In other schools it might be the principal. But, it always starts with one person.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Getting Back To the Losing School…

The losing program just does not have the commitment. It’s that simple. When you go to meetings, it’s always time to hear 100 different excuses why they can’t compete. The culture of winning is just not present. The difference maker, the one person who starts it all… does not exist. In the losing program, no one runs the program. In the losing program, no one is willing to stand up and make a difference. So, what happens… because the school does not demand excellence, that attitude filters down to the coaches, the parents and to the players. If they win great, but if they lose… well, that’s what they expect anyway.

Excellence in high school athletics starts at the top. It’s an attitude. To win you must be willing to pay the price. It’s really that simple.

Early Childhood Education Degrees

Are you considering a career in early childhood education? Very few things compare to the satisfaction of nurturing a young child through these impressionable years, which makes it such a rewarding career path. Here are a few educational avenues you can take. But check your home state for specifics, as each state has its own requirements for future teachers.

Certificate Programs

If you are simply looking for an entry-level assistant position at a preschool or daycare, you can sign up for a certificate program. These programs do not take long to finish and they introduce students to the basics of child development.

Associate’s Degree Programs

Associate’s degrees are two year programs that go into more detail than certificate programs. Besides the courses in childhood education that are required, there will be general liberal arts and science courses involved as well. When you graduate with an Associate’s degree, you can apply for teaching positions at preschools and daycare centers. There are some Associate’s programs that offer an emphasis on daycare.

Additional College Degrees

Many colleges and universities offer programs in early childhood education. There are undergraduate degrees, or four year programs, and if you want (or need) to take your education further, there are graduate degree programs in the subject. Graduate degree programs are usually for two years, depending on the workload you are able to take on.

You will most likely need a Bachelor’s degree if you want to become a lead teacher in early childhood education. If you get a Bachelors degree, you will learn about instructional methods, classroom management skills, and literacy education. Some programs will have specialized courses focused on preschool.

If you have higher aspirations within the early childhood education arena, you will need to consider a Master’s degree. This higher level of education prepares you to be a daycare administrator, supervisor, or special education specialist. You can also teach other aspiring teachers at a higher education institution with a Master’s degree.

Doctoral Degree

While this is a rare educational pursuit, some ambitious educational students will want to pursue a Doctoral degree. This high level of education prepares you not just to be a teacher at an institution of higher learning, but you can become involved in educational research or develop curriculum.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for a school to start your early childhood education, there is an easy place to start. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education sets the national standards for programs in early childhood education. You can visit their website to search for accredited early childhood education programs in your area.

Military High Schools – Will Your Child Fit In?

The term “military high school” can be quite self-explanatory. It’s almost the same as a private high school, except that it follows after a military tradition. The purpose of this is to get the best of what military academies have to offer and apply this on high school students in order to help them develop important values such as camaraderie, nationalism, discipline, and responsibility, among others.

These schools have the usual core subjects and extracurricular activities present in traditional high schools, but with additional military-inspired activities. It’s not unusual for high school military schools to have extracurricular activities like riflery, JROTC, marching band and similar activities, or for core subjects to include courses about naval navigation, rocketry, military history, and similar courses.

While some private schools require students to wear uniforms, most military high schools will require students to wear military-inspired uniforms and be called “cadets”. Different school staff will also have military titles, and different parts of the school will have military-inspired names.

You’ll also find some military high schools which focus more on a branch of military service. For example, there are schools that provide extra courses for different military branches like navy, but focus more on aviation. Students can get extra courses in aviation science, have actual on-hands experience flying a plane and get their pilot’s license by the time they graduate in high school.

Going to a military school does not guarantee a slot in military universities or colleges, but it’s a good way to have an edge in terms of knowledge in different parts of the military tradition. Not all students who go to these kinds of high school really plan to pursue a military career, but the fact remains that these schools provide students with excellent education, a structured environment, and the discipline and drive that will help them succeed in the next phase of their academic and personal lives.

Military schools have a great track record for college matriculation as well as developing students who are athletically gifted. Students are not forced to take part in military-inspired extracurricular activities. For example, most schools do not require all students to join JROTC. Students with different interests can still flourish in military schools. After all, when students learn to be responsible for themselves and strive for excellence, they pick up important life skills along the way that are beneficial to any field that they choose.

Students are also not treated like regular cadets in a military training camp. They do go out on weekends, get calls from home, have internet access and are connected to the outside world. They aren’t cloistered and kept from the world outside school. Most of them are actively involved in community service efforts.

The question of whether your child will fit in depends on whether his/her personality and needs can be best served by military schools. If your teen has other needs, like teens with ADHD/ADD, learning differences and disabilities, it’s best to find out if the school has facilities to accommodate and help your child with his/her specific challenges. Not all military high schools will be able to provide this. If your child has a need for intensive therapy and counseling, other alternatives are probably more suited to fit that, such as therapeutic boarding schools.

Rethinking High School

How we educate high school students in the U.S. needs to change. Our high schools are no longer relevant to the needs of 21st century learners and the system must be restructured. This restructuring will allow students to choose from a variety of new study options. The days of “one size fits all” for secondary education services are coming to a close – it is now about providing students with a “customized” course of study in their pursuit of a high school diploma. Students should have a choice among the traditional high school model, a community high-school model (a hybrid between traditional and online instruction), and an early-college model that will allow students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree by taking a fifth year of high school.

Central to all three high school study options, or combination of options, is an intensive focus on making each learner’s secondary school experience a successful one (particularly at the freshman level), and offering ubiquitous student access to the Internet both in school and at home (using a variety of mobile computing devices). A synopsis of each program option required in a restructured high school include:

Freshman Academy

Research has shown that the transition between middle and high school is one of the most difficult developmental challenges a person faces in life. Students who are not successful in 9th grade are six times more likely to drop out before completing high school compared to their peers. The reasons for such a high failure rate include a variety of student factors upon entering high school:

– Physically and emotionally changing;

– Different setting with different expectations and experiences;

– Moving from a school environment designed to nurture children to one that

is designed to produce independent young adults;

– Academics are more challenging;

– Young teenagers are immersed with older teens.

A Freshman Academy helps to ameliorate these potential problems and issues by creating a “school within a school” environment as part of the larger high school student population. This is done by clustering 9th grade teaching teams and classrooms together, and utilizing group of upper classmen that will provide peer support. The program ensures that teachers have adequate student-focused common planning time and engage in cross-curricular instruction. Parent involvement and peer mentoring are also key components of the Academy.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Technology plays a large role in our students’ lives today. Personal devices can enhance and enrich learning opportunities both at home and at school. High schools today must be committed to allowing responsible, learning-centered use of personal devices at school so as to provide as many pathways to understanding and learning as possible for students.

Access to robust wireless networks is vital to student success these days using a variety of mobile computing devices. These devices can be either school-provided or personal laptops, tablets, or smart phone; however access to the Internet must be filtered to be in compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Access from a personal device should be primarily for Internet use, but students can be given access to their own email account and document folder on the school’s network server.

For purposes of allowing students ubiquitous access to the Internet for instructional purposes, “technology” means a privately-owned wireless and/or portable electronic hand-held equipment that includes, but is not limited to: existing and emerging mobile communication systems and smart technologies, portable Internet devices, hand-held entertainment systems or portable information technology systems that can be used for word processing, wireless Internet access, image capture/recording, sound recording, and information transmitting / receiving/storing.

Hybrid Community High School

The creation of a hybrid community high school, in addition to traditional high, merges traditional and online learning into one customizable secondary education program. This hybrid is particularly attractive to students who do not do well in the traditional high school setting, such students at-risk of academic failure, gifted students, or students who are just plain bored and need something different. This merger results in one, united flexible-program high school for “non-traditional” high school students who, for one reason or another, would prefer to complete many of their required credits online instead of in the classroom.

Every student attending the hybrid program receives a graduation plan during their enrollment period that best meets their individual needs. To ensure that students have the best opportunity for success with a program of this sort, a mandatory three-week (15 day) orientation is required of all new students designed to prepare them for independent online work using an online curriculum (such as e2020), while the faculty assesses each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In my school district, students are required to complete a series of in-classroom courses that include: Career Cruising, Effective Note-Taking & Study Skills, and Strategies for Academic Success before being placed in one of three tiers that allow for independent work online anywhere, any place, and at any time. Each tier is designed to offer a customized blend of in-school support with a student-centered approach to providing educational services online on the student’s terms, not the staff’s terms. Students are assigned to an instructional track based on in-class performance, online attendance and activity, grades, and level of self-motivation after they complete orientation.

Students are reevaluated at the end of every session, at which time they may be assigned to a new instructional tier based on the above criteria. Tier 1 students are required to attend class five days per week, receiving the most in-class support and supervision. Tier 2 students receive in-school instruction 2 to 4 days per week. Tier 3 students need only attend school one day per week. In all three tiers, students are able to work an unlimited number of hours at home and have access to e2020 courses 24 hours per day. All students have access to teacher support via email or phone. Additionally, students in the hybrid community high school program must have access to the regular high school program and allowed to take courses there and participate in the full range of extracurricular programs alongside their traditional high-school peers.

Early College Program

It is widely accepted that a majority of today’s jobs, eight or nine of every 10, require education beyond a high-school diploma. It is also known from U.S. Census data that most adults in the U.S. have not yet completed a two or four year degree. Although nearly 70% of high-school graduates start some college classes, only about 20% actually complete a degree. One significant problem today is that many students find that completing a college degree is difficult because of the many conflicting financial and time commitment priorities they face in today’s economy. A successful pathway to a college degree now requires a coordinated collaboration among high school, college, family, and community partners.

In my school district in Michigan, we have developed an early college program for a cohort of 50 committed students who agree to a rigorous academic program beginning in the 11th grade and continuing in a dual-enrollment program with a local community college through a 13th year in order to obtain both a High School Diploma and an Associate’s Degree. The program also provides an occupational track for students who wish to pursue a one year Certificate or Associates degree in a skill based area of technology, health, or business.

The cost of tuition for obtaining the Associate’s degree is paid by the school district, which utilizes it’s per pupil state aid payments to fully fund the program. There are very little out-of-pocket costs to the students. The savings on two full years of college tuition alone is estimated to range from $8,000 to $50,000 and beyond. The early college program also reduces the amount of actual time it will take a student to complete a degree by one year, which could provide one extra year of potential income in their lifetime. This earning opportunity value could range anywhere from $25,000 to $80,000 or more, depending on the student’s degree. Although textbook expenses are covered, some personal transportation costs will be the obligation of the student; although bus service between our high school and the community college is provided free of charge.

Early college students are enrolled in both high school and college for grades 11, 12, and 13. These students will complete a traditional six-year college education (four years of high school and two years of community college) in only five years, thereby accelerating their baccalaureate and/or graduate degrees.

Students with the Associate’s Degree are eligible transfer to most colleges and universities throughout the country. Because the first two years of tuition will be paid for by the school district, the student eligibility for sports scholarships, academic scholarships, and/or Pell grants will be extended to the year following the 13th year. Students do not lose eligibility for opportunities for college scholarships or federal financial aid because of their participation in our early college program.

Students who may not wish to pursue a Bachelor’s degree program are eligible to enter into a career program that provides employable skills while earning credits toward an Associate’s Degree or completion of a Certificate in the field of technology, computer occupations, nursing, and health/medical areas. Those obtaining an Associate’s Degree in any the community college’s technical/career program are eligible to transfer to universities or colleges that have approved Bachelor degree agreements with the community college for their specific area of study.

Through a unique partnership, counselors from both our high school and the community college provide services to early college students that support them throughout high school and their 13th year.

Summary

By rethinking how high school instruction is delivered, American secondary education can begin offering a truly customizable to its students. In so doing, we can produce high school and Associate’s degree graduates with a comprehensive set of critical thinking and tech-savvy skills that will serve our country well as these students compete for the new jobs in our global economy.