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Harbor High School Wins Gold Ribbon Award

Posted by 
Mitch Weathers
February 15, 2016



School: Harbor High School | Santa Cruz | California

Two years ago Harbor High School implemented Organized Binder:Teacher. The effort, lead by principal Dick Davis, has been the model of a faculty committing to a reform initiative. All of the teachers who have participated in Organized Binder have committed to trainings, follow-up sessions, and implementing the system with fidelity and the results show their efforts. This past year Harbor High School was awarded the Gold Ribbon Award and received an additional award for being a Title I Academic Achieving School.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said, "These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching."

You can see other Harbor High School highlights here.


When principal Davis got the news that Harbor was being given these prestigious awards he contacted us to share the good news. He sent us a letter explaining that Harbor's application was focused on the school's work with Organized Binder. Excerpts from his letter are below:


"Big Picture: Building student-ness through using structures - Organized Binder", a letter to Organized Binder from Dick Davis, principal of Harbor HIgh School. 

"The Gold Ribbon visit forced us to examine our work with the Organized Binder. We built our application for this statewide recognition based on our implementation of Organized Binder. As we worked on our application "To build Student-ness" sounded good on paper; As we found out this week it is real. We are building student-ness using this system of organization. Organized Binder is guiding students to learning organization skills and helping teachers structure their lessons.

For the visit we gathered ten students to meet with the folks from the County Office, this is what they had to say:

“The most impressive part was that when we asked “what part of the binder has helped you the most” we got five different answers. This made us think that Organized Binder is working on many different levels and helping kids who have different needs. Some kids felt the Weekly Lifeline (Page B) was the most helpful because it kept them centered on the key area of the class. Students liked that they got a chance to think about the lesson in the Learning Log. They also said it helped them study for the test. Some students said that the Agenda (Page C) helped them stay on top of the assignments while others talked about the Academic Toolkit (Page F) as being the section that helped them the most because they could refer to it to do homework and to study for tests.”

Our Gold Ribbon visitors noted that the students had a common language to talk about their classes - "they all knew what a C Page was and they all could talk about the Academic Toolkit and they knew that class starts with a Kick-off prompt and that it ends with a Learning Log that reflects on what they learned during the period." They also reported that the students were incredibly proud of their binders. It was their work. They could "see" that they were learning something by the volume alone.

In writing up their gleanings from talking with the teachers, they noted that the teachers felt that Organized Binder had an impact on their teaching: Teachers agreed using the binder pushed them to have a purpose for each lesson, to prepare a prompt for the starter that related to the previous day or previewed the lesson. They also talked about how the Learning Log (Page B) pushed them to think about a closing question or activity each day.

It was clear to them that the Weekly Lifeline (Page B) was a powerful formative assessment and that it was obvious from their class visits that teachers used both the opener and the closure as ways to check for understanding. “In one class it was clear that the teacher had to re-evaluate based on the way that several students responded to the opening Kick-off prompt.”

We discussed the impact Organized Binder has on the instructional norms that we have set for ourselves at Harbor High School:

  • Setting the Purpose
  • Checking for Understanding
  • Student Engagement

All three of these instructional norms are embedded in the structure that is set up by using Organized Binder. Along these lines, one parent whose son is Special Education and struggles with organization, said that her son not only knows when the tests are in his classes that use Organized Binder, but that for the first time he seems to know what to study in those classes!

We have done a lot and its impact has been bigger than I had realized. Students were more focused and were feeling more supported in those classes that were using this system. After our Gold Ribbon visitors left, I had a moment to clean up the office and was glancing at the binder that we put together for their visit. Looking at the timeline of implementation, I saw again that this was only our second year with this tool...

Dick Davis"

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