Transformation model turns around West Virginia high school

The West Virginia State Board of Education invited Richwood High School, a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab from Richwood, West Virginia, to its June meeting to present a video they produced about the school’s improvement process.

Broadcast journalism students Emily Bennett, Trey Burwell, Tristan Legg, Kendra Lipps and Tarrin Neel, along with teacher Susan Johnson, traveled to Charleston to present their video and explain the SRL program to board members, State Superintendent Dr. James Phares and guests. The WVDE members were impressed with the video and asked for permission to use it in their professional development sessions in the upcoming school year.

From left to right: Tristan Legg, Trey Burwell, Emily Bennett, Kendra Lipps and Tarrin Neel.

Now the students will go work on to work on a more challenging piece: they will examine the effectiveness of the SIG or School Improvement Grant funds that their school and other schools around the country received over the past five years. Richwood High School was designated as one of the lowest performing schools in the state in 2011 and received $1.4 million when they adopted the transformation model school improvement. Three years later the school was named to U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools for 2014, winning a Bronze medal for improving access to college level and AP courses along with other improvements.

Students from Richwood High School interview James B. Phares, West Virginia’s 28th state superintendent. 

The students interviewed teachers, administrators, students, in addition to the state superintendent of schools and the president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers to examine the pros and cons of federal improvement money. The youth journalists were assisted by their mentor Chuck Frostick with West Virginia Public Television.