OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining High School has been honored as a 2016 "School of Opportunity" -- one of only 20 schools from across the country to receive the recognition.
The national designation honors public high schools that actively strive to close opportunity gaps and help all students succeed. Opportunity gaps are the differences in opportunities and resources that drive achievement gaps, according to the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"Schools of opportunity" help raise students' achievement by closing opportunity gaps within districts' control. OHS received the program's "Silver" designation.
"Ossining High School has created a high expectation culture for its diverse student body through an array of innovative programming and comprehensive course offerings, and that stood out to the national team of reviewers," said Carol Burris, co-director of the "Schools of Opportunity" initiative.
The NEPC said two innovative programs in particular exemplify OHS' commitment to providing opportunities for all students. One serves students with disabilities and the other is for language minority students.
"I am honored that our high school was selected," said Ossining Superintendent Raymond Sanchez. "This award serves as recognition of our mission in the school district and the hard work and dedication of our high school staff."
The program for students with disabilities is not only academically challenging, but it also fosters an atmosphere in which each student, regardless of ability, is encouraged to acquire the skills necessary to become an independent lifelong learner, the district said.
Eighty-three percent of Ossining's special education students are placed in either mainstream classes with additional support or in "inclusion" classes co-taught by content and special education teachers. Students with disabilities are also active participants in elective and extra-curricular programs.
Similarly, Ossining provides mindful support for language minority students. It uses an integrated co-teaching model, combining language and content so students can fully participate in classes with native English-speaking peers. About a dozen students are in the program, which is in its second year.
Principal Joshua Mandel recognized the school's outstanding staff, as well as the supportive community, school board and superintendent.
"The staff never gives up on kids. They're always willing to try new things and so is the community," Mandel said. "The reason I really love this award is I think it's recognizing a culmination of many people's efforts to help kids."
Over 100 high schools in 26 states applied for the designation, which began in New York and Colorado in 2015 and has expanded to recognize schools nationwide.
For more information about the initiative, visit its website.