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 July, 2008
Story updated December 17, 2012.
• In 2012, 87% of 7th graders scored proficient or above on the state standardized reading test, 11 points higher than for the state as a whole. 86% of 8th graders scored proficient, up 23 points from the state.
• In 2012, 94% of 6th graders scored at proficient or above compared to 85% for the state.
• 4th graders scored above their state peers in proficiency in both math and reading in 2012 - 93% in math and 92% in reading - compared to those in the state at 88% and 85% respectively.
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. ...
Story posted December 17, 2012.
- Six years ago, the school—which enrolls 475 students in grades 6–8, 69% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch—was one of the lowest performing middle schools in Kentucky; today the students outperform 90% of the students in the state.
- West Carter has met AYP the last three years; continued overall growth; and as of 2010, ranked in the top 10% of the 327 middle schools in Kentucky.
No student has been retained at West Carter Middle School in Olive Hill, KY, in the last five years. Staff members proudly point to that fact as evidence that their decision to not permit zeros is working. That’s a bit misleading, because coupled with the no-zero policy were a number of programmatic initiatives and supports that allowed all students to meet state standards and demonstrate significant academic growth. Six years ago, the school—which enrolls 475 students in grades 6–8, 69% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch—was one of the lowest performing middle schools in Kentucky; today the students outperform 90% of the students in the state. ...
Story Posted November 27, 2012.
- In 2004, only 55% of students graduated; in 2011, 86% of students did
- Four years ago, just 54% of students were proficient and 20% were advanced on the science graduation test; in 2011, 22% were proficient and 75% were advanced (all tested areas show a similar trajectory)
- Ten years ago, the school was among the failing high schools in Georgia; by 2011, it was among the top 10% of high schools in the state for student achievement in every area
Results matter. Whether in a classroom or on an athletic field, student achievement drives the success that builds pride in the community and the school. As results improve, the bar keeps getting higher. Nowhere is this truer than at Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia. The school’s 965 students, almost half of whom are from economically disadvantaged families, have demonstrated what a focus on student learning can accomplish. In 2004, the school ranked at the bottom of the state in students passing the high school graduation tests, and only 55% of the students graduated. In 2011, 86% of the students graduated and the school ranked 17th in the state on the graduation exams.
Although that is a significant accomplishment, seeing how the level of student proficiency has increased is even more striking. On the science graduation test four years ago, 54% of the students were proficient and 20% were advanced. In 2011, 22% were proficient and 75% were advanced. All the tested areas demonstrated a similar trajectory. The decision to not ...
Story posted May 5, 2008. Results updated November 26, 2012.
• In 2011, Paternos School District improved on its 2010 state test performance across almost every subject in all but one grade.
• Students in both 7th and 8th grade reading improved proficiency rates by over 15% between 2010 and 2011; students in 7th and 8th grade math also had improved proficiency rates of over 15% in the same time period.
• Despite serving a significantly higher percentage of low-income students, Paternos exceeds state proficiency averages in several grades for both reading and math.
Pateros School District, a small rural district in north central Washington, is working with a regional arts group in an indirect approach to improving student achievement. ...
Story posted May 7, 2009. Results updated November 26, 2012.
- In 2011, Lindbergh school district improved on its own 2010 state proficiency rates in almost every subject across all but one grade.
- Lindbergh also exceeded the state proficiency rates in every subject across every grade in 2011.
- In 2012, the district graduation rate was 94.8%, up from 84.5% in 2002 and 7% higher than Missouri state's graduation rate.
The Lindbergh School District has always been in the vanguard of character building. When it took its first steps in 1989 to introduce character education in all of its schools, the world was a different place. No cell phones, no laptops, no iPods, no text messages. However, the founding committee had the vision to see that a district-wide espousal of character, with all schools and the community on board, would be the best way to achieve the district’s goal: to develop competent and caring graduates through exceptional programs, services and personnel.
Today, their vision is being realized. As Amy Richards, the coordinator for character education and a 25-year veteran of the Lindbergh district, puts it: “Character now is pervasive in all we do—it’s an integral part of our vision and our mission, our curricular as well as extra-curricular activities, our board policies and annual goal-setting, and our staff’s concept of ...
Story Posted October 23, 2012.
- In 2012, the school exceeded state proficiency averages on standardized tests in all subjects across all grade levels.
- Out of the 9 subjects tested across grade levels, student proficiency rates in all but three were 90% or higher.
Today’s Woodbridge (VA) Middle School in no way resembles the school that existed in 2005. Then, the students were mostly White and few qualified for the free and reduced-price meals program; today, there is no majority group among the 1,038 students and almost 50% of the students qualify for such support. Then, student achievement was average; now, it is significantly above average as measured by the Virginia state assessments. The story of the school’s breakthrough success is the story of a strong leader who works collaboratively with an entire school staff to teach each student. ...
Story posted December, 2007. Results updated October 23, 2012.
- Outperforms state averages in all subjects across all grade levels, despite serving a higher percentage of low-income students.
- Baldwin's school rating based on state test scores rose from 493 in 1999 to 858 in 2012 (the statewide goal is 800)
- Standardized test scores continue to improve - for example, from 2011 to 2012, 5th grade ELA proficiency rates increased from 49% to 69%; science rates increased 56% to 78% and math rates increased from 67% to 91%.
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. ...
Story posted September 25, 2012
- During the 2009-2010 school year, 12 percent of Totem Middle School’s eighth-graders took algebra; now, 83 percent take algebra, with 100 percent projected for the 2012-2013 school year.
- At Totem, a $10,000 grant secured by MEA through NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign helped the school install a new laptop computer lab.
- School staff are receiving training on parental engagement.
- Data teams were created at schools receiving school improvement grants, with data from assessments shared with the students so they can see their progress as well as used by educators.
What does a strong public school system look like? It’s hard to envision with today’s political and economic climate, but America can provide a great public education for every child. The National Education Association (NEA) and its members know where to start.
Last December, NEA laid out its Leading the Profession Action Agenda, incorporating proven best practices in education from thousands of teachers around the country and input from the independent Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, created by NEA in 2010 to examine the teaching profession and make recommendations on maximizing teacher and teaching effectiveness. This year, NEA expanded that vision by introducing five domains of education quality: the quality of the professional, the profession, the schools, education policy and the union.
So what does all that look like in practice? In Marysville, Washington, educators in three schools supported by NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign (PSC) are planting the seeds for sustainable education reform in ...
Story posted August 27, 2012
- In 2011, 93.5% of students performed at or above grade level on the state end-of-grade math test, up from just 54.2% in 2008
- The percentage of students at or above grade level in reading rose more than 20 percentage points over that same time
- 80% of students achieved grade level performance in science in 2011, up from just 24.6 percent in 2008 (all gains come in spite of the reality that 97 percent of students qualify as economically disadvantaged)
Summary: District officials in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools believe that effective principals directly impact student achievement and, as a result, are placing the district’s top principals in the neediest schools.
When Suzanne Gimenez became principal at Devonshire Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, she had one mission: improve student achievement. ...
Story posted August 27, 2012
- The district graduation rate rose from 76% in 2004 to 93.5% (over 90% in all student racial and income groups) in 2011
- The school system now has about 110 community partners and a 100% Graduation Project committee that meets quarterly to discuss ways to engage additional community groups and encourage students to pursue their diplomas
Summary: School officials in Clarksville Montgomery County believe that, with the community’s help, 100 percent of their students will graduate from high school. ...
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!