As of April 16, 2007, with state and national partners, the North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP) has launched an unprecedented effort to create more than 100 new and redesigned high schools across North Carolina by 2008. These high schools offer all students an academically rigorous curriculum grounded in the skills needed to succeed in college and the 21st century workplace. They also focus on particular fields of interest to make learning more relevant to students or are based on a college campus so that students can earn college credits. Many schools have a focus in areas that are vital to the future of the state's economy, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These innovative high schools represent a critical mass for change among North Carolina's larger pool of regular high schools and serve as models for the entire state for maximizing student achievement.

NCNSP and its partners at the NC Department of Public Instruction are working to create two types of schools: redesigned high schools and Learn and Earn early college high schools.

  • Redesigned High Schools: NCNSP is partnering with school districts to convert conventional high schools into sets of autonomous, focused and academically rigorous new schools which operate on an existing campus. These new schools each adopt a curricular focus or common methodology as one strategy to enable teachers in the core courses to work together to make connections between courses and the world of work. The intent of a focus is not preparation for a specific career, but rather preparation for a lifetime of learning and workplace changes.

  • Learn and Earn Early College High Schools: Based on the campus of two- or four-year community colleges and universities, Learn and Earn early college high schools provide an academically rigorous course of study that ensures all students graduate with a high school diploma and two years of transferable credit or an associate degree. Each Learn and Earn early college high school serves a student population that is representative of the student population in the district, with an emphasis on recruiting and serving students who would not typically get an opportunity to go to college or who would otherwise have dropped out of school (first generation college-going students, underachieving students and low-income and minority students).

Collectively, these two types of schools are called innovative high schools. There are 58 innovative high schools across 42 school districts that are currently in operation (25 redesigned and 33 Learn and Earn early college high schools). An additional 29 innovative high schools (19 redesigned and 10 Learn and Earn early college high schools) are scheduled to open for the 2006-07 school year. See Attachment A for more information on where these innovative high schools are located

High Priority High Schools

At the beginning of the 2007 fiscal year, $661,680 was appropriated to the State Board of Education by the legislature to support of a cohort of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) high schools. The total included $40,000 for each of ten schools for planning and support for early employment of principals at each planning site. All of the state's high priority, or "turnaround," high schools were invited to apply for STEM partnership planning grants by the State Board of Education. NCNSP was identified as the non-profit professional services agency that would facilitate the school redesign planning process for the ten high priority schools that were selected. Under the NCNSP redesign model, each school was expected to create a new, innovative, autonomous high school located on the campus of the larger traditional high school or engage in a whole school conversion to prepare all students for college, work and citizenship in the 21st century.

Over the past year, the 10 high priority high schools selected (see Attachment A) have been working with NCNSP to redesign part of their comprehensive high school into a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused high school. Under the redesign model, each of these schools will

  • Set clear, rigorous standards for student success and provide high levels of student support for students to meet the standards;

  • Establish an intentional "college-ready" culture throughout the school;

  • Focus intently on the development of literacy skills (reading and math) by providing accelerated learning opportunities that enable students to successfully meet the demands of advanced STEM studies in mathematics, science and engineering;

  • Develop an innovative and challenging STEM curriculum supported by substantive professional development in STEM content areas and sustainable partnerships with higher education and the business sector.

The 10 high priority high schools have received the following supports and made the following progress in the development of their STEM-focused high schools over the past year.

  • Planning: A structured planning tool was developed for high priority schools to maximize time and guide the school redesign process in a focused way to insure a successful opening in August 2007. Areas to be addressed included school autonomy, vision, graduate profile and proficiencies, community engagement, student recruitment and selection, faculty recruitment, and student support for acceleration in math and literacy including bridge opportunities for rising ninth graders. NCNSP staff has conducted two site reviews to provide feedback on plans and insure commitment to all NCNSP design principles and "non-negotiables." Each principal has prepared a PowerPoint presentation for use in student/parent and community meetings. Presentations include school vision, school data supporting the urgency for change, and school wide student outcomes. Final school master plans are due on April 16, 2007.

  • Academic Program and Curriculum: Students enrolled in the new STEM schools will receive support for acceleration in math, science and technology with the aim of preparing all students for college, work, and citizenship in a 21st century global economy. Students will graduate with mastery of high-level course work, having earned at least some college credit. Students will be expected to take four years of math and science courses. Collaboration among stakeholders, including colleges, universities, and the private sector, will ensure that students benefit from meaningful inquiry-based internships. All curriculum and instructional strategies will emphasize rigorous, project-based learning to prepare students for a connected world where math, science and technology are vitally important to success. Each student will have a personalized four-year growth plan. All courses of study will align with the North Carolina State Board of Education's core curriculum, Future Ready Goals and 21st century knowledge and skills. In addition, STEM schools have established partnerships with the New Technology Foundation, the Boston Museum of Science and/or Project Lead the Way to implement nationally validated STEM school models. A nationally recognized expert in STEM education, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is providing technical assistance in program development.

  • Coaching: Two experienced school change coaches have been assigned to provide intensive school coaching services to high priority school principals. Coaches spend an average of two days per week on site working with school leaders and the school planning team to develop a master plan for school redesign. Coaches use the structured planning tool and benchmarks to help guide and focus the planning process. Coaches provide continuous feedback to principals, district level personnel and NCNSP staff on progress, problems and obstacles. Coaches also contribute to the relevance and "just in time" content delivered through the NCNSP Leadership Development Institute for School Redesign.

  • Leadership Development: The school districts were asked to name principals by February 2007 so that sufficient time would be available to develop their leadership and change management skills through the NCNSP Leadership Development Institute for School Redesign. Principals have been immersed in the study of successful small school models as well in STEM school curriculum design and project-based learning. In addition, NCNSP has partnered with the highly successful University Park High School in Worchester, Massachusetts to provide a four-day residency experience for principals and continuing participation in selected seminars. The partnership has been designed to develop the leadership skills required to implement a rigorous academic program and build a culture of achievement. As final objective for the year, principals will be able to use specific strategies to lead teachers in reflective practice and professional development around student work through participation in Critical Friends Group training. By June of this year, STEM school principals will have completed 22 days of leadership training.

  • Professional Development: Schools have been asked to complete teacher recruitment and hiring by May 1, 2007 to allow sufficient time for orientation, team building and planning. Teachers will require extensive professional development, access to national models and direct assistance with the creation of practical plans for implementation. A five-day summer institute has been planned for teachers in June 2007. (See Attachment B) In addition to formal training, on-site follow up work with teachers has been scheduled during the month of August to finalize three exemplary start-up projects; school wide student outcomes and rubrics; student support plans and acceleration curricula. Beginning in fall 2007, teachers will be provided the opportunities to participate in study visits to University Park High School and to a model STEM school. Professional development goals will focus on changing teacher value and belief systems and providing teachers with the tools and strategies they need to provide academically challenging and engaging instruction for all students within a personalized learning environment.

  • Affinity Network: Schools will be grouped together on a regular basis for professional development as a cohort during the planning phase to learn from one another, share resources and refine strategies for instructional change. A digital collaborative platform will be used to model technology as a tool for learning, accessing resources and promoting growth through real time feedback and project development.

  • Ownership: In some measure, the school district and community must take ownership for reform if change is to be sustained. Therefore each planning site has agreed to obligate additional funds during in the planning year to help support the costs of teacher release time, travel and professional development. Districts will also be expected to identify additional funding streams to help support implementation and the technology necessary to support effective teaching and learning within a STEM focused high school.

NOTE :: Various file formats are used on this page that may require download. If larger than 1mb, it will take longer to download. For instructions or more information, please visit our download page.

Attachement A
A map of Learn and Earn Early College High Schools and Redesigned High Schools
(pdf, 85kb)

Attachment B
NCNSP Stem High School Redesign Planning Sites
(pdf, 61kb)