Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

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.

California Middle School Highlights Digital Learning for Student Success

Partnership for 21st Century Learning

This 1:1 school developed a hands-on learning model by building trust with students and the community, and powerful partnerships for student success. An inspiring turnaround story, RMMS has been a featured Digital Learning Day school, awarded grants from I3, Digital Promise, and Digital Innovation in Learning.

School Profile

  • 850 students in grades 6 – 8
  • 93% students of color
  • 90% free or reduced lunch
  • 73% English language learners


School District Focuses on Aligning Transitions from PreK to Postsecondary

Toni Pace & Joshua Garcia

Originally published in the August 2016 issue of School Administrator. Reposted with permission of AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

You are a high school senior, living in poverty with a dream to go to college. You want it so badly that you can taste it. You are nervous about filling out your college applications because you don’t even know where to start. You feel paralyzed, questioning whether you did all the right things to make you a successful candidate. What if you aren’t ready? What if no one told you? You exhale.

What if you were surrounded by a community that designed a system to ensure that every transition you made in your prekindergarten through postsecondary experience intentionally placed you in a position to be successful? What would it look like to have this aligned system?

Easing Transitions
In the Tacoma, Wash., School District, we have designed such a system. It’s a system that dramatically increased high school graduation rates from 58 percent in 2010 to 82.5 percent in 2015. ...

Arizona School Uses Playground Project as Tool for Learning

Catalina Foothills Unified School District, Arizona

Story posted June 6, 2016

What happens when fifth graders are asked to design a kindergarten playground?

The inspiration for a collaborative fifth grade project struck Nina Hernandez as she watched kindergarteners at play. Ms. Hernandez, the fifth grade-writing teacher at Manzanita Elementary School, in Catalina Foothills School District near Tucson, Ariz., noticed that some students played on the play structures, but others did not. 'How can we engage all kindergarteners in play?' she wondered. ...

Chattanooga Schools Focus on Digital Inclusion and Economic Development


Story posted February 29, 2016

Chattanooga, known by an older generation for The Andrew Sisters song “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” is now becoming known as the leading U.S. community addressing digital equity. The effort is multi-layered and comprehensive, and its leadership starts at the top with its young mayor, Andy Berke. The school system, Hamilton County Department of Education, is a key partner in the effort, but other agencies and partners lead it. ...

A Rural High School Goes Digital

Partnership for 21st Century Learning

Story posted January 18, 2016

How can a small, rural district blend technology and mediated learning instruction to cultivate a holistic learning environment for all students?  That is the question Center Grove School Corporations asked itself. That is the question that students can now answer.

Expanded Opportunities

Blended learning has become an amorphous concept with the advent of new technologies flooding the K–12 landscape. At Indiana’s Center Grove Community School Corporation, teachers are cultivating their school’s own unique approach to technology-mediated instruction in order to meet its students’ individual learning needs. Here, high school students have the opportunity to engage in online learning opportunities offered via its Center Grove Global Campus (CGGC). ...

Mentors Bridge Gaps to Help First-Generation Students Go to College

Arizona Education News Service

Story posted November 17, 2015

This story and photos were posted with permission from Arizona Education News Service:

Antontrey BegayeAntontrey Begaye knew he wanted to become a physician after doing clinical rotations as a medical assistant in high school while taking career and technical education classes in the Flagstaff Unified School District.

But he wasn’t quite sure how to get there until he received help from mentors Eugene Begay and Kim Kryger at Northern Arizona University’s Educational Talent Search. They encouraged Begaye to apply for financial aid through College Success Arizona and drove him to Phoenix for the interview.

Now Begaye, a recent graduate from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s of health sciences degree, is applying to medical schools.

“College Success Arizona allowed me to focus on that and not worry about any debt or loans to pay back,” Begaye said. “It’s been really great with the impact that they played in my life, my personal development, my educational journey. I’m really grateful for that.” ...

California Elementary School Models 21st Century Learning

Story posted October 20, 2015

Katherine Smith Elementary School, a P21 Exemplar school, is a public neighborhood elementary school in the Evergreen School District in San Jose, California. As a New Tech Network school, Katherine Smith was reinvented from a traditional test-driven environment into a 21st century school. The design is based on having a project-based learning curriculum to engage students, an empowering culture, and the technological tools to support the learning. With 650 students, the special education percentage is approximately 8% with special day, resource, and speech services. ...

Sacramento Parent Home-Visit Model Builds Trust, Achievement

The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project

Story posted September 23, 2015

In the low-income neighborhood of South Sacramento in the late 1990’s, parents and guardians were told by the school district that they were “partners” in their children’s education, yet they felt they were treated like problems rather than solutions. Communication, and trust, were at an all-time low. 

Helped by a community-organizing group, ACT, the parents developed an inexpensive and fast way to build positive relationships: train teachers to make voluntary home visits to the families of their students. The founding mothers fought to get a pilot project off the ground, with eight schools participating, and forged a unique collaboration between ACT, the school district (SCUSD) and the teachers union (SCTA). The “project” became a nonprofit organization, and then grew into a national network that now leads more than 100 trainings a year for new schools.  ...

Georgia School District Upgrades Technology Infrastructure to Enhance Learning

Fulton County Schools

Story posted July 13, 2015

Leaders of Fulton County Schools, just outside Atlanta, realized that increasing its use of wireless technologies would bring several challenges, from ensuring the district’s network could handle increased capacity to training teachers on best practices for using devices in the classroom. The school district recently shared its story, below, with LFA.

As part of a personalized learning initiative, where students are issued a personal electronic device by the school, and students and teachers are also encouraged to "bring your own device" (BYOD), problems can arise in the wireless environment if a school is not adequately prepared. When a high volume of people introduce a personal device to the network, the devices attach wirelessly, requiring more capacity and creating more density, and shared technology gets slower. ...

Service-Learning Opportunities and Mental Health Support Help Chicago Students Take Leadership Roles

Coalition for Community Schools

Story posted June 28, 2015

Reposted with permission from the Coalition for Community Schools.

An increase in social-emotional support for students as well as opportunities for them to exercise leadership skills is paying off in increased attendance and the percentage of students on track to graduate at John Hancock College Preparatory High School on Chicago’s southwest side. 

Leadership and service opportunities—whether it’s promoting wellness activities in the school or volunteering in the community—are tied closely to the goals of the school, helping to create a seamless environment that supports learning.

In fact, when Principal Karen Boran learned her school had won an award, she responded, “For what?” because she says the work of the partners is so much a part of how the school operates. Students and families have benefitted, she says, because of “how hard we work to integrate everything.”

The fact that there is stability in partners working with the students and families is another reason why the school is meeting its goals, she says. ...