Life School’s Strategy for Success: Preparing Students for the Rest of Their Lives
Charter District Prioritizes Academic Excellence and College, Career & Military Readiness
In 2020, more than 60% of Texas jobs will require some college education (a Certificate, 2-Year Associates, or a Bachelor’s Degree) but unfortunately, today less than 30% of Texas high school graduates earn a post-high school credential within six years of graduation. Life School – a Dallas-area public charter school district with 10 schools including six elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools – is making strides to overcome this challenge through academic excellence, leadership training and a focus on College, Career and Military Readiness (CCMR).
“As educators, our main job is to prepare our students for their future lives so they are successful in whatever they choose to be or do,” said Life School Superintendent Dr. Brent Wilson. ““With a mission to develop leaders with life skills through strong academics, character training, and partnerships with parents and the community, it is our duty to prepare our students for the next step in life so they are successful whether they choose to go directly into the workforce, join the military or work toward a degree at a 2-or-4-year college.”
District outcomes show the efforts are working. Life School, which serves the communities of Carrollton, Dallas, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Red Oak and Waxahachie, recently received an overall B rating in the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Accountability Ratings System and an A for its College, Career and Military Readiness program. Perhaps most importantly, both Life High Schools have a 100% high school graduation rate.
Research shows that a primary part of being prepared for what comes next is being able to read at grade level by third grade. Life School takes this research to heart as evidenced by its strategic goal that, when met, will ensure all students are reading on grade level by the time they reach third grade. Training resources through the Teachers College at Columbia University, along with increased access to books and reading programs for students will help Life School students meet this important milestone.
Hand-in-hand with academics, an important part of the education Life School provides is character training through its LifeLeader program. Developed based on more than 20 years of practical research, observation and experience, Life School teaches 15 attributes that represent skills or knowledge necessary to be an effective leader. These attributes include qualities to ensure that all Life School’s students are ready to learn, ready to lead and ready for life.
Armed with this strong foundation, Life School students are able to explore what the future holds through its top-rated College, Career and Military Readiness program. Thanks to CCMR, in 2019, 22 Life School students received their Associate degree along with their high school diploma and 55 medical certifications were awarded to graduating seniors.
Life School CCMR coordinator Leigh Dopson develops the CCMR curriculum and provides support to the educators leading the CCMR program, ensuring they have the resources needed to help students achieve their goals. This includes equipment for Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes like Health Science, Audio/Visual, Education Training, Business, Information Technology and STEM. CTE classes provide hands-on and technology-based activities and are designed to help students evaluate individual interests and abilities and begin exploring related career opportunities while also building skills. By taking CTE classes in high school, students can then earn certifications to start their career upon graduation.
“With CTE we are getting them ready for their careers,” said Dopson, who has been at Life School for six years. “We are exposing them to the expectations they are going to find in the real world.”
Dopson notes that Life School is unique because it pays for certification exams, equipment and resources. “Removing this financial barrier makes it easier for our students to complete the necessary certifications to become employable in the workforce.”
About Life School
Life School opened as an open enrollment, public charter school in 1998 and has campuses in Oak Cliff, West Dallas, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Red Oak, Waxahachie and Carrollton. For ten consecutive years, Life School has received the Texas Education Agency’s highest rating in School FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas), a financial accountability system for charter schools. Life School’s mission is to develop leaders with life skills through strong academics, character training, and partnerships with parents and the community.