Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Community Helps Struggling School Reopen to Success

Coalition for Community Schools, on behalf of George Washington Community School, Indiana

Story posted July, 2008

• 10-15% average annual increase in standardized test scores for 4 years
• 100% of the school's first graduating students passed the math portion of the state Graduate Qualifying Exam and 90% passed the language arts portion (both district records)

It's hard to imagine that George Washington Community School was once struggling so badly that the school district had to close it. Today, the school is alive with activity and its students are thriving.

The transition did not happen overnight-and it would not have happened at all if it had not been for the powerful commitment and intensity of support from the community. The work to reopen the closed high school grew out of a grassroots desire by the community to provide an environment where young people, and their families, could succeed. Neighborhood residents envisioned a center of community collectively focused on improving graduation rates and preparing young people for post-secondary education.

The entire school community is committed to making the school a place where all are welcome and diverse groups of people feel comfortable and accepted. The school has been particularly effective in creating an environmental that fosters understanding and communication among students who come from a variety of backgrounds.

Working closely with community groups, a community school coordinator, employed by the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center, works with forty-nine local organizations to ensure that student and community needs are met on site. Services offered at the school include mental and physical health services, preschool, after-school, tutoring/mentoring, personal fitness, college preparation programs and adult education programs--among many others.

GeorgeWashingtonCS2WEB2.jpgThe school's strong tie to the community has inspired innovative teaching strategies at the school. Teachers use the state's learning standards and have added civic and community involvement components to them. On any given day at George Washington you might see students engaged in letter writing campaigns, reading to kindergarteners, teaching their teachers Spanish or working out with college students in personal fitness training, while parents might participate in a financial literacy class, English as a Second Language or work on their GED. More than 294 parents and other adults have participated in the school's Center for Working Families family literacy program since 2004.

Nearly six years after George Washington reopened as a community school, its students' standardized test scores have risen by an annual average of 10 to 15 percentage points and sophomores, tested for the first time in 2003, outscored all the district's traditional high schools. 100 percent of the school's first graduating students passed the math portion of the state Graduate Qualifying Exam and 90 percent passed the language arts portion, both district records. According to District School Board Member Clark Campbell, "student success at Washington is nothing short of a miracle, directly reflecting its intensive community-driven spirit." Campbell would like to see all Indianapolis Public Schools become like Washington.

For additional information, please contact:
Keith Burke
Principal, George Washington Community School

This story came to LFA's attention for after being honored with a 2006 Community Schools National Award for Excellence, presented by the Coalition for Community Schools.

Story reposted with permission from the Coalition for Community Schools


Photos courtesy of the Coalition for Community Schools and ACE Mentor Program