For her leadership in the areas of teacher quality and educational equity and reform, the Learning First Alliance has named Stanford professor and accomplished author Linda Darling-Hammond as our 2013 Education Visionary Award winner.
Public School Success Stories
Across the Country, public schools and districts are transforming themselves to prepare students for success in a 21st-century democracy and global society. Take a look at what educators and communities are doing right now to meet this challenge.
Or tell us what's working in your own school or district.
Story posted April 23, 2013. (We previously covered this initiative in August 2012, but this narrative adds a different, and very valuable, perspective.)
- The district graduation rate has steadily increased from 78.5 percent in 2006 to 95.2 percent in 2012.
- All high schools in the district exceeded their individual target graduation rates.
- More than 100 businesses, civic, government and faith-based organizations have signed up to be a part of the 100% Graduation Project.
There’s a real conversation-starter hanging on a wall outside the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System’s (CMCSS) board room. It’s a wall-sized poster of football players representing each of this Middle Tennessee district’s seven high schools. They are standing on the 50-yard line, in uniform, looking tough and determined, with game faces on. Below them is the text: “95.2% is not enough.”
The poster stops many visitors in their tracks. When they realize the meaning behind the words — that the number reflects CMCSS’s current graduation rate, and the district’s goal is 100 percent — they typically question if district leaders are serious. We are!
“One hundred percent graduation,” said Superintendent Dr. B.J. Worthington, “is our goal, and our community has made the commitment. We’ll not strive for anything less.” After all, a football field is 100 yards long, and CMCSS is not content to stop 4.8 yards short ...
Story posted April 23, 2013
- Critical thinking statements included in student lab reports increased by 45 percent; 80 percent of students writing such statements provided further explanation/evidence in their writing.
- Teachers report opportunities for greater collaboration and that they can more effectively facilitate formative assessment, leading to more differentiated instruction.
- Education support personnel (afterschool tutors) report that they have better access to information on student performance and can therefore more effectively focus their instructional support specific student needs.
When Amanda Zullo began teaching a multi-grade high school chemistry class, she knew she needed to change the way her class worked to meet the needs of a wider range of students. With no prerequisites, the Regents chemistry course placed in the same classroom “the valedictorian and the kids who are hoping to meet the graduation requirements,” she says. “It challenged me to try different ways of teaching to reach the broadest group of students possible.”
Zullo shifted to an inquiry-based model of classroom instruction, one in which students work together in groups to solve open-ended problems. To ensure students were on task, she walked from group to group to check for understanding. But she knew that spot checks “based on gut” weren’t enough to ensure that all students were learning.
In searching for a solution, Zullo discovered a counterintuitive corollary about technology and teaching: finding a tool to quickly gauge student understanding paved the way for ...
Story posted March 26, 2009. Results updated April 23, 2013
• In 2012, the school outperformed the state in reading at every grade level, despite serving a significantly higher proportion of free/reduced-price lunch students [they performed nearly as well, or as well, in math at every grade level]
Everyone loves a Cinderella story. When Newport Mill Middle School opened its doors in 2002, folks wondered how students would fare. The school is located in the section of Montgomery County, Maryland, that is most affected by poverty, mobility, and language diversity. The verdict is in: One of the highest-performing middle schools in the county, Newport Mill has demonstrated the remarkable power of the Spirit of Excellence.
Tiger Pride: Fueling the Character Education Initiative
An important aspect of the school’s success is its emphasis on ...
Story posted March 26, 2013
- In 2012 the district made AYP for the first time
- During the first four months of the 2012-2013 school year, multiple grades in the elementary and middle schools have seen 7 months to 19 months growth in student learning
Fremont County School District #38 is located on the Wind River Indian Reservation. 98% of 440 students are members of the Arapaho Tribe.
For many years, the students of Fremont County School District #38 were far behind in their reading, writing, science, and math skills and abilities. Students often transferred from one grade to the next, several grade levels behind where data-driven norms suggested that they be. In addition, frequent changes in district leadership meant no sustained systematic approach to addressing achievement by school leaders. Teachers were left to do what they could on their own and students suffered from years of systems' breakdowns. One of the many negative results of the disorganization plaguing the district was that Fremont #38 was continually unable to meet the Annual Yearly Progress goals set by the state under the No Child Left Behind legislation. The lack of strong systems and ...
Story posted March 26, 2013
- Over the past two years, Oak Hill has raised its composite score (which combines the results from third- fourth- and fifth-grade reading and math exams, plus fifth-grade science) by nearly 25 percent
- The percentage students meeting proficiency in math rose from 55 to 86 and in reading from 33 to nearly 50
- 85 percent of students are proficient in science, surpassing the state average by ten points
- Named a North Carolina 2012 Title I School of the Year
The hard work and dedication of educators and school leaders at Oak Hill Elementary School in High Point, N.C. has received much-deserved recognition for its school reform efforts.
Closing its achievement gaps between students by significant margins has earned Oak Hill North Carolina’s Title I School of the Year award by the state’s Title I Distinguished Schools Recognition program. This honor comes with a $32,500 award and national recognition at a conference in Nashville, Tenn.
Educators shared with conference goers the growth Oak Hill has experienced in the areas of data-based instruction, standards-based planning, school culture, and areas in need of ...
Story posted October 16, 2008; Results updated March 26, 2013
• A 17% turnover rate for teachers with fewer than five years of experience in 2011.*
• In 2011, the district outperformed state proficiency levels in all grades across all subjects.
Like many small rural school districts, the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District in Western New York faces challenges in hiring and retaining teachers. Home to rural farms and small manufacturing facilities, the district serves a diverse population of about 2,500 low- to middle-income students. Many district teachers are nearing retirement, potentially exacerbating teacher retention woes. District leaders worried that high turnover rates would impede student learning. ...
Story posted November 9, 2009. Results updated February 27, 2013. Note: You can read more about Viers Mill at http://www.learningfirst.org/collaboration-viers-mill.
- In 2012, over 95% of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students met proficiency standards on state reading tests
- In 2012, over 98% of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students met proficiency standards on state math tests
- In all instances, the school outperformed the state despite serving a higher percentange of students in poverty
If you're looking for a Cinderella story, get to know the people at Viers Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland:
One of the [paraeducators] who had been here a long time said, "you know, they used to call this place 'slumville.'" Now, she says "the President's visiting here...." He came to our school for the work we did. He didn't just happen to show up.... It was the apotheosis of my entire career.... The President of the United States--the President of the United states!--is in our cafeteria...because of the work that went on in this building....
That's Susan Freiman, Viers Mill's staff development teacher, describing President Obama's surprise visit to the school last month. She worked hard with her colleagues to turn the once struggling elementary school into a national exemplar where almost every student is proficient on state tests. That is no mean feat for a school where most students are from low-income families and ...
Story posted January 22, 2013
- Attendance is strong: students are coming to school every day for every class period.
- AMA’s students are outperforming the school district average on several standardized tests
- Last year 98 percent of the academy’s students passed California’s high school exit exam
The Academy of Medical Arts (AMA) at Carson High School is a small high school located in Carson City-- an area between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach. The city is home to California State University, Dominguez Hills—a major university in Los Angeles County.
The student population at AMA is ethnically diverse and includes young Filipinos, Samoans, Latinos, African-Americans, Whites, and Native Americans, among others. No single ethnic group dominates the student body, and teachers say that gives the campus a feeling of equality and balance. Many of the students come from families who work blue collar jobs as mechanics, oil refinery workers, longshoreman, drivers, and retail and grocery store staff. Some students’ parents also work in the medical field as nursing assistants or diagnostic technicians. ...
Story posted January 22, 2013
- Attendance at the East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy is ninety five percent.
- This past year, the school graduated 97 out of its 112 seniors.
- The school recently saw an increase in students’ English language arts test scores.
The East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy is one of five schools located on a single campus. Together, the five schools make up the Esteban Torres High School.
The Esteban Torres campus uses the community school strategy to meet not just the academic, but the social and mental health needs of students. There is a health clinic onsite, staffed by a pediatrician, a reproductive health provider and several mental health therapists. The school also partners with community professionals who offer special workshops and classes to students and their families, touching on everything from diabetes prevention to nutrition and healthy eating. The campus also has a community school coordinator who works closely with families to identify social problems that impede student learning—such as alcohol abuse or peer pressure to join gangs or crime hot spots near school and home.
Each of the schools that makeup Esteban Torres also share these characteristics: each school has some areas of autonomy from the Los Angeles Unified School District, each school offers expanded learning opportunities to students, each school uses a career theme to help drive teaching and learning practices, and each school is small enough (with a student population of several hundred) to allow the principal to know every student by name.
The high school campus is located in East Los Angeles, an area that is home to many low-income Mexican-Americans. Some East L.A. families are second and third generation, with family roots that are deeply tied to California history and culture. Other families are relative newcomers to the United States and may include undocumented immigrants. East L.A. was home to a thriving Chicano rights movement in the 1960s and today recognizes Latino contributions through its Latino Walk of Fame. As much as it has a reputation for cultural pride, East L.A. also has a reputation for being a tough place to live. Gang life in East L.A. has been documented in ...
Story posted March 1, 2011. Results updated January 22, 2013
- In 2011, 10th graders outperformed the state in proficiency rates in both reading and math. In reading, proficiency was at 93.4% compared to 85.1% in the state, and 93.3% for math compared to 78.7% in the state.
- In 2011, 11th graders scored 100% proficient in both reading and math; statewide, proficiency levels were 93.5% for reading and 88.1% for math.
- Graduation rates went from only 18% less than a decade ago to 91% in 2010.
- In 2010, Taft was named a Blue Ribbon School to recognize it's new discipline strategies, increased personal attention to students, and stellar graduation improvement
Nearly a decade ago, Taft Information Technology High School graduated only 18 percent of its students, struggled with student discipline, and offered only limited extracurricular activities. Today it is an entirely different—and greatly improved—model school. In fact, Taft was named a 2010 Blue Ribbon School. A radical restructuring led to Taft’s success. A new principal, new discipline strategies, and more attention paid to individual students (teachers now compose individual education plans) have contributed to a higher graduation rate. Last year, Taft’s graduation rate was 95 percent.
Anthony Smith, the current principal and a Taft alumnus, has reinstituted a broad array of extracurricular activities, including football and basketball teams, and the band. Smith has also continued technological improvements and investments at the school.
Don Ellis, who has taught mostly government and economics, has witnessed the school’s transformation firsthand. When he arrived at Taft 27 years ago, a housing project surrounded the school; at that time, students’ problems were often those associated with poverty, such as ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!