Meet Tara High School, a CHSS Demonstration School  

The Center for High School Success is proud to announce our 2023-24 Demonstration Schools. CHSS Demonstration Schools are chosen for their sustained improvement, consistently high 9th Grade On-Track Rates, and exemplary implementation of the CHSS Roadmap. Additionally, Demonstration Schools receive the recommendation from a CHSS 9th Grade Success Coach.   

Demonstration Schools partner with CHSS to showcase the exemplary 9th Grade Success Work to support deep learning for the current national network of high schools and to recruit new schools and districts to engage in 9th Grade Success Work. 

Meet Tara High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana  

Tara High School’s 9th grade class is ranked first in the nation for 9th Grade On-Track improvement. In just two years, 9th Grade On-Track rates increased from 33% to 90%. 

CHSS Director of Strategic Partnerships, Eric Nelson, said, “Most amazing high school improvement I have seen in my career!” 

Principal John Hayman shared more about Tara High School.  

Tell us a little about your school’s history with 9th Grade Success Work?    

 We knew that the biggest return on our investment would come from freshmen, since they’re going to help establish the culture for the next four years. 9th grade is a good place to place our resources and concentrate on our vision for the school because those students set an example for the next class. This approach builds on itself year after year. 

The teachers led an effort to change our grading policy, so now we offer many opportunities—including amnesty weeks—for students to turn in missing work. We have Saturday schools where kids who are struggling can get extra assistance from our academic coordinators and teachers. We have transparent checklists for success that we share with students before assessments. 

 We worked on our scheduling process eight months ahead of time, thinking about who needed to be a part of that team and how we were going to service students with specific needs. We prioritized departmental, 9th-grade academy, and professional learning communities (PLCs) meetings, ensuring that every 9th-grade teacher could meet during the school day. In biweekly academy meetings, teachers talk about specific students, data, and strategy progress. In the weekly PLC meetings, teachers focus on instructional best practices and student work. 

We also increased the number of higher-level or dual-enrollment classes we were offering. We conducted surveys, looked at test score data, and cohorted students based on class pathways to create a primary schedule that reflected our belief that all students are capable. It allowed them more choice, and when they didn’t make the choice themselves, we used data to help them. 

What are you most proud of? 

Definitely the people. We’ve assembled a team that meets often and works totally in unison to look at data and put a blueprint in place. We don’t just pawn this off on our teachers. Our admin team is behind the effort 100%, and we all believe in what we’re doing. That’s the key to our success: We’re modeling for teachers the kind of relationship-building we want to see in classrooms. 

Anything else you’d like to share? 

Students now have a purpose and feel like they’re part of a learning institution. Historically, 9th-grade students performed worse than upper-class students, and a big part of that was the transition from middle to high school. Students have to start to understand what high school is from day one. They have to feel like it’s for them and that the intent is to make them the best that they can be. So, now our counselors spend more time with 9th graders to teach them about graduation plans. 

This year, CHSS is partnering with our Demonstration Schools to host Learning Labs, which are designed to be an immersive experience wherein participants have an in-depth learning opportunity to see best practices and strategies from our CHSS Roadmap in action at a Demonstration School. These visits are a great opportunity for high school educators and district leadership to learn about 9th Grade Success work through seeing it in action. Both current CHSS network partners and prospective partners are welcome!  View the dates and register to attend here.