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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.

Raising Their Standards

NASSP Breakthrough Schools on Behalf of Troy Howard Middle School, Maine

Story posted January 27, 2015.

Results:

  • Troy Howard students outperformed their peers statewide in reading, despite the school serving a larger proportion of low-income students

  • Growth in reading for Troy Howard students as a whole - and for the lowest performing quartile of students in particular - also surpassed state average

It’s just a short but beautiful drive from the picturesque city harbor on the bay in Belfast, ME, to 60 spectacular acres dotted with greenhouses, cold frames, a community garden, and beautifully designed and maintained flower beds. This is the inviting home of Troy Howard Middle School, which houses 400 energetic sixth, seventh, and eighth graders from small towns scattered around Waldo County, 730 square miles of land located in the eastern coastal region of Maine. The landscape and gardens are tied to the Ecology Academy, one of three learning academies established during Troy Howard’s turnaround from one of the poorest-performing schools in the state to a role model for other middle schools. ...

Opening the Door for a New Generation of Students

Coalition for Community Schools, on behalf of Community Links High School, Illinois

Story posted December 16, 2009, updated December 16, 2014.

Results:
• Over 90% graduation rate in most recently availabe data.

Built in 1898, John Spry School has served kindergarten through eighth-grade children from southwest Chicago’s Little Village community, where the majority of the population is bilingual, for many years. But historically many of Spry’s students would graduate in the 8th grade, get a job to help support their families, and never complete high school.

In 2003, former principal of Spry, Dr. Carlos Azcoitia, approached the District CEO about adding a high school to Spry, creating a comprehensive community school from preschool through secondary school. After getting the go-ahead, Azcoitia met with community members, parents, the local school council, teachers, and students to discuss the design of a shared community building with an innovative, “no failure” high school. Today, Spry’s Community Links High School, which serves a student population that is 100% Hispanic and over 93% free or reduced price lunch, is opening new doors for the area’s children.

Committing to Post-Secondary Success
As a public, neighborhood school, Spry’s Community Links High School (CLHS) provides a unique opportunity for students and families from the community who are committed to success. Spry has designed a ...

The El Dorado Promise

Brett Pawlowski, K-12 Partnership Report for El Dorado Public Schools, Arkansas

Story posted August 8, 2011. Results updated December 16, 2014.

Results.

  • Ninety percent of 2013 Promise-eligible class enrolled in college.
  • Ninety-one percent of Promise college freshmen have completed at least one year of college.
  • Sixty-two percent of the Promise recipients have completed at least two years of college.

On January 22, 2007, residents of El Dorado, Arkansas learned that a unique initiative called The El Dorado Promise would allow graduates of El Dorado Public Schools the opportunity to earn college degrees tuition-free as a result of a $50 million commitment by Murphy Oil Corporation to El Dorado’s greatest resource – its children. ...

A "Beacon of Light": Baldwin Academy

Bonnie Wilson, Baldwin Academy, California

Story posted December, 2007. Results updated December 16, 2014.

Results:

  • Baldwin.jpgSchool outperforms the state in all subjects across almost all grade levels, despite serving a higher percentage of low-income students.
  • School rating based on state test scores rose from 493 in 1999 to 830 in 2013 (the statewide goal is 800).

Baldwin Academy Principal Bonnie Wilson refers to her school as a "beacon of light" for the surrounding community in the San Gabriel Valley of California. Today, Baldwin's light is shining brighter than ever thanks to a high level of support for staff, plus extensive collaboration among teachers at all levels.

"We believe that if kids aren't where we want them to be or aren't making the kind of progress we'd like, it's because we haven't figured out as professionals how to get them there," Wilson said in an interview with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). ...

Pride is the First Step

NASSP's Principal Leadership, on behalf of Pocomoke Middle School, Maryland

Story posted July, 2008. Results updated November 18, 2014.

PocomokeHall1WEB.jpgResults:

  • In 2013, the school outperformed state averages in all tested subjects and grades.
  • In 2013, 97 percent of 4 grade math students scored proficient, compared to 81 percent for the state.

When visitors step inside Pocomoke Middle School, they are immediately surrounded by a profound sense of pride and high expectations. Students are actively engaged in instruction, the classroom walls are covered with student work, and the halls are lined with pictures of students demonstrating success. ...

Keeping It Real: A Toledo Public School Prepares Students for College and Career

By Jennifer Dubin, for American Educator, on behalf of Toledo Technology Academy, OH

Story posted November 18, 2014.

A Toledo Public School Prepares Students for College and Career - See more at: http://www.aft.org/ae/fall2014/dubin#sthash.H08pQmkR.dpufResu

Results: 

  • Approximately 96 percent of the roughly 40 seniors who graduate each year continue in some form of postsecondary education
  • Students often enter projects in national competitions - and win
  • Businesses praise the school's graduates, and about 40 partner with the school to sponsor internships

“Why do I have to learn this?” It’s a question that crosses the minds of many high school students, but one that Ian Furstenberg doesn’t need to ask. Because of his classes in such technical fields as digital electronics and automation, he can see the immediate connection between his schoolwork and his career interests; he dreams of becoming an engineer.

Furstenberg attends the Toledo Technology Academy (TTA), a career-tech school within the public school system in Toledo, Ohio. TTA teaches students in grades 7 through 12 using a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum. In addition to the traditional academic subjects of English, history, science, and math, TTA also provides engineering and technology courses, such as those Furstenberg is taking his junior year.

When he graduates from TTA, Furstenberg will leave with a career portfolio, which will include certifications attesting to his technical expertise as well as letters of recommendation from his teachers and the company that hired him for his school-sponsored internship. If he decides to work right after high school, he can present that portfolio, showcasing his knowledge and skills, to a prospective employer. Or he can submit it to a college admissions office along with the standard application. ...

Scheduling for Results

Nicholas J. Myers, Anne Fox Elementary School, Illinois

Story posted December 9, 2008. Results Updated October 28, 2014.

Results:

In 2013, the school outperformed the state average on reading assessments in every grade, and by 10% or more in grades 3, 4 and 6
• In 2013, the school also performed well on math assessments, with all grades outperforming the state average by 10% or more

All children can learn. When a school staff truly embraces this core belief and openly demonstrates it to students, parents, and each other, dramatic improvements in academic performance can result.

Take, for example, Anne Fox Elementary School. Fox is a moderately low-income, demographically diverse school in the working-class suburb of Hanover Park, Illinois. The student population is 34 percent white, 30 percent Hispanic, 17 percent black, and 19 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Students speak more than 35 different languages, and the school’s low-income and mobility rates are double the district average. Until recently, Fox School ranked dead last in academic achievement among the district’s 21 elementary schools and was known as a “problem spot.” ...

A Wake-Up Call Sparks Action in Arizona

Stephanie Sheaffer, Vail Unified School District, Arizona

Story posted April, 2008.  Results updated October 28, 2014.

Results:vailstudents1.jpg
• In 2013, Vail exceeded all state proficiency averages, across grades and subjects

• In almost all grade levels, students are scoring at or above proficiency at rates of 90% and higher in reading

Administrators and staff at the Vail Unified School District recognized they had a problem back in 2003. Student scores on the new statewide AIMS test showed a downward trend as children in Vail schools moved up through the grades. For example, while third-graders were scoring in the 70-percent range on average in math, by middle school and high school proficiency rates dropped into the teens.

"It was a real wake-up call," said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Debbie Hedgepeth. "Students weren't performing where we knew they could and should." ...

Learning Communities Support Student Achievement

By Jennifer Klein on behalf of Fulton County Schools, Atlanta, GA

Story posted October 28, 2014.

Results:

  • The graduation rate is up 7%, with some schools seeing even greater gains
  • Overall test scores are up - for example, Tubman Elementary posted an 8% increase in reading, 13% increase in ELA, 14% increase in math, 12% increase in science and a 19% increase in social studies on the 2014 GA CRCT
  • At Westlake High School, SAT scores increased 130 points in one year among the students taking new SAT prep classes

The South Learning Community (SLC) group of schools in Fulton County Schools in Atlanta heard the same old song – increased number of students, poverty up, and greater accountability – but now has a different second verse: “Graduation rates are up 7%, more 9th graders are on track to graduate, and we’re seeing big gains in SAT scores,” says Dara Wilson, area executive director, who works alongside Dr. Donald Fennoy II, area superintendent, to support this group of 27 schools (4 high schools, 5 middle schools, and 18 elementary schools) in south Fulton County, all but one Title 1 with high poverty. These gains are being realized as part of Fulton County School’s district-wide goals of 90% graduation rate, 85% college readiness, and 100% career readiness by 2017 ...

Freedom Within Fences

By Merri Rosenberg on Behalf of Pewaukee School District, Wisconsin

Story posted September 29, 2014.

Results:

  • 97.4% graduation rate in 2012-13
  • All schools in the district met AYP under No Child Left Behind
  • 17 AP courses are now offered in the district, nearly double the number of four years ago

Consider the way student data are handled typically at many schools — often tucked away in a teacher’s folder or sequestered in a central-office file cabinet until it’s time to prepare student report cards or work on placements for the coming year.

That’s not the case in Pewaukee, Wis., where at Pewaukee Lake Elementary School there’s a student data wall displayed prominently outside of a staff development room. For each student there’s a three-by-two-inch card attached to the wall, color-coded by grade and complete with a photo, to capture how the student is doing on the Common Core standards, offering a quick visual report to teachers. ...