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Finding the Tipping Point


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Keywords: Research; Testing theories
Subject(s): Social Skills, Reading, Information Skills, Photography, Social Studies, English/Language Arts
Grades 11 through 12
School: Mt Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY
Planned By: Meredith Emanuel
Original Author: Meredith Emanuel, Mount Vernon
Theory: Identifying and changing small items that significantly impact school culture will create a community of engaged students, leaders, and teachers. By identifying the “minor messes” and fixable problems that suck attention away from major issues, we will change the climate of the school for the better. Hopefully, the changes will result in increased attendance, pass rate, teacher retention, student and teacher satisfaction, higher test grades, etc.


Methodology: Students will read The Tipping Point and apply its arguments to the high school, attempting to “tip” its culture of failure and apathy towards one where the majority of students care about their grades and performance.

In small groups, students will research which students in the current 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades are connectors, mavens, and salesmen. By using this information, we can harness the talents of these important individuals to spread our epidemic of “motivation and academic success.” We can assign different groups of students particular tasks and reward them for their efforts.

Student will develop an ad campaign (or media campaign using internet) that will have “sticky” messages about things like the importance of good attendance, the need to do homework, the need to respect peers, etc. They will generate a list of the most important priorities and “market” them to others students in a memorable way. Students will spread the messages around the school with fliers, posters, announcements, campaigns, etc.

Students will define the particular problems (called “broken windows”) that we, as a school, can address that will meaningfully shift the school environment. (For example, eliminating graffiti, stopping hall walking, checking that all kids have ids and passes) Basically, we will “crack down” on seemingly minor infractions in order to show students that we’re actually serious. After identifying the major and minor problems (and how they affect students, teachers, and administrators), the students will generate some potential solutions or improvements that can immediately be enacted.
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Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Work with teachers of economics, sociology, history, math to analyze research data
Links: Malcolm Gladwell's site
Materials: Video Cameras, Digital Cameras, Art Tools, Printers, Computer Accessories, Office Suite