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A "good life" for every student: High schools embrace many pathways to success

January 1, 2024

The Covid-19 pandemic and recovery period is a unique opportunity to understand contemporary issues in high school reform. Evidence has clearly demonstrated lingering Covid impacts on adolescent students that have deepened pre-existing inequities and worsened teen mental health. There's a natural desire to regain normalcy after the pandemic. But it's essential, and urgent, that we examine why that "normalcy" failed in the past to support every student's needs. We must identify effective, even new, ways to level the playing field for today's students, and for future generations. Research has shown that many high school educators and administrators experimented with new approaches during the pandemic. Can the lessons learned in this period contribute to more lasting, transformative shifts?This report begins to answer that question. Beginning in 2022, Arizona State University's Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and Columbia University's Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL)—with support from the Barr Foundation—began studying innovations in six public high schools in New England. We chose schools in a range of contexts that all had some form of redesign underway. Over 20 months, we interviewed students who had begun high school around when the pandemic struck; most of them had graduated by the end of the study in December 2023. We also interviewed students' caregivers, teachers, and administrators. We wanted to know what success meant for students and the adults in their lives, and how schools were making changes—including before the pandemic—to ensure every student had the opportunity to learn and thrive. We listened for where schools were succeeding, and what challenges they faced in the new normal of a post-pandemic landscape.

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