Adlai E. Stevenson High School
Adlai Stevenson High School was recognized as an U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School in 1986-87, 1990-91, and again in 1997-98. This story is gleaned from its successful application to the Blue Ribbon Schools Program in 1997-98.
Stevenson High School is an example of how strategic whole-school reform can transform a public high school. In the early 1980's, the community expressed its displeasure with this large suburban Chicago school by rejecting a referendum to enlarge it, and representatives of another population center began a drive to detach themselves from the school. However, by the late 1980's and early 1990's, remarkable changes had occurred.
In 1995, Stevenson moved from a single school structure to a school-within-a-school or "house" concept. In many ways, the school operates as three schools of 1,100 students. Students are randomly assigned to one of the three houses, each with its own faculty, counselors, deans, and social worker, where they pursue the school-wide core curriculum while being able to attend any course that is not available in their own house. A collaborative culture nurtured by family and community partnerships and by staff development and planning has been a key component of the school's transformation.
Stevenson's collaborative efforts with the community are extensive. The school has strengthened its link to the community with the creation of a School-Community Foundation, a Business Advisory Committee, and a major initiative to give students greater opportunities to explore careers. One goal of Stevenson's partnerships as spelled out in its vision statement is "developing the community's allegiance to and ownership in the school."
The high school serves as a year-round community center that provides services to residents of all ages. The Stevenson School-Community Foundation was established by residents in 1994 and has raised over $250,000 to further its mission of establishing a link between the school and community that is beneficial to both. The Community Foundation facilitates use of the school's facilities by the community and sponsors an annual fine arts series.
The primary means that Stevenson High School uses to focus resources on vision and goals is its attention to results. As Peter Drucker observes, "In most organizations, what gets monitored gets done." Both the commitment to continuous improvement and the results orientation that characterize Stevenson require the ongoing collection and analysis of data. Stevenson conducts an annual phone survey of randomly selected parents representing 15% of the freshman class. The survey concludes by asking parents to indicate their overall impression of the school. Over the past four years, 97% have responded "extremely favorable" or "favorable." The school monitors the student satisfaction survey that is included on the ACT exam and compares results with other high performing high schools.
Each year Stevenson's leadership team presents a series of reports to the Board of Education that addresses progress toward the school's vision and evidence of student achievement and satisfaction. The school conducts a telephone survey of a random sample of students one year and five years after they have graduated to determine their levels of success and their perceptions of the preparation they received in high school. One question drives the analysis of this data: "What can we do to improve the results we are achieving?" This constant focus on results and improving performance has helped to identify Stevenson as a model school.