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Wheaton High School Named National Breakthrough School

January 31, 2008
Wheaton High School Named MetLife-NASSP Breakthrough School for Encouraging High Levels of Student Achievement

Wheaton High School has been selected as a MetLife-NASSP Breakthrough School, one of only 10 schools in the nation serving large numbers of students living in poverty that were honored for encouraging high levels of student achievement.

The Breakthrough School program, sponsored by the MetLife Foundation and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), showcases middle and high schools that are high achieving or are dramatically improving student achievement. The 10 schools selected as Breakthrough Schools demonstrated continual growth on state assessments over at least three years, specific efforts addressing the achievement gap, equity of student participation in challenging courses, and academic and career-focused learning plans for students.

Wheaton has a diverse student population. Of the 1,324 students who attend, 53.4 percent are Hispanic, 24.2 percent are African American, 11.6 percent are Asian and 10.6 percent are white. Almost 49 percent of Wheaton students receive free and reduced-price meals.

With supports in place—such as access to rigorous coursework for all students, differentiated instruction with multiple assessments, data-based decision making and opportunities for career development—Wheaton is working to close the achievement gap. The number of students who take Advanced Placement classes and exams continues to increase. Wheaton actively recruits students to take Honors classes in their freshman and sophomore years. This year, 61.7 percent of all students are participating in AP and/or Honors classes, with 26 percent enrolled in Advanced Placement classes.

Wheaton offers professional development that supports students’ particular needs. All staff members participate in subject-level Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) that meet at least once a month. Based on data gathered last school year, this year the PLC is focusing on motivating students and looking at implications for instruction.

Wheaton is committed to the concept of smaller learning communities, which allows the school to target all students for academic success. Wheaton has five academies—Academy of Information Technology, Academy of Engineering, Academy of Biosciences and Health Professions, Institute for Global and Cultural Studies, and the Ninth Grade Academy. The four content-specific academies are integrated with course pathways that provide advanced-level instruction. Next year, all incoming freshmen, in addition to attending the Ninth Grade Academy, will participate in another academy during their years at Wheaton.

The high school also partners with the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, which provides tutor funding at the Homework Center, where students can work with teachers across all disciplines. Lunchtime Enrichment is offered every day through the various academic departments and academies.

The school will receive a $5,000 grant and will be featured in an upcoming issue of Principal Leadership magazine. Wheaton and other Breakthrough Schools will be honored at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, February 22–28, 2008.

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