National Center for Learning and Citizenship at ECS
700 Broadway, Suite 810
Denver, CO 80203-3442
Associate Policy Analyst
Asst. Editor/Administrative Asst.
Visit the Liberty High School website
Liberty High School participated in the Schools of Success Showcase in Nashville, Tennessee, May 4-7, 2011. View their presentation (PDF, 4.4MB).
Liberty High School is an alternative safety net school designed as an option for students whose learning styles keep them from being successful in traditional, comprehensive high schools. The school responds to current data by implementing best practice that addresses at-risk students' needs to be agents of their own learning, and to recognize their value and worth as resources to their communities. Since its inception in 1997, service-learning has been a school-wide initiative and a required component of the curriculum for graduation.
The flexible week at Liberty High School provides all students and teachers 90 minutes of additional class time on Wednesday afternoons to embed service-learning into the curriculum. This restructured time allows students to do needs analysis, connect with community partners, and plan and implement service projects. The projects are long-term and ongoing, and assessment involves reflection and demonstration of learning. In the past, student-driven and -written grants generate funds to support larger endeavors such as the annual "Girl Power" Young Women's Mini-Conference that involved every female student in the building and was the brainchild of the students. Other projects included "Build-A-Bear," a collaboration with profoundly handicapped students in the district to make and deliver bears to critically ill or injured patients in the local children's hospital.
Service-learning is an integral part of teachers' professional development, and a strategy to achieve their assessment goals in the school improvement plan. The teacher resource and curriculum coordinator help teachers with service-learning design and implementation. Learning communities meet twice a month to tune teacher work and analyze student work, offering opportunities to improve projects and results. One of their "most successful professional development days" was when the entire faculty went into the community to various agencies to engage in service themselves, then returned to school to debrief and reflect. Through this experience, many teachers were convinced of its impact on students and ability to engage students in learning.
Making connections with community partners has been an informal process. Wanting to serve the needs of their handicapped peers, a student called that school to make a community connection. The school was not interested initially because Liberty High School is an alternative program. However, when the class invited one of their school's staff to visit and share about the school, they decided to give Liberty students a chance. Liberty is now their favorite service group. Liberty students' persistence to connect with and meet community partners is what they call their first strategy.
Drawing on their skills, competencies, systems and extensive experience improving service projects and relating them to learning, Liberty High School is prepared to share effectively with their district and Network schools to improve practice, reduce institutional barriers and advance institutionalization.