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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.
Story posted October 22, 2013
- Between the 2009-2010 and 2011- 2012 school years, reading proficiency scores increased by over 10 percentage points
- School attendance for children participating in afterschool programs has increased by 1% – 3%
- Proficiency across math, reading and writing performance increased or remained constant across three years for after-school participants, while decreasing in math and writing for non-after-school participants
Hartford’s community school initiative probably could have been started by any of the four agencies or organizations represented on the leadership team. But what has made the effort so strong in its relatively short five-year life is that partners from across the city are involved and deeply dedicated to expanding and sustaining a model built on best practices.
Mayor Pedro Segarra’s office, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, and the Hartford Public Schools all financially support and participate in the Hartford Community Schools Partnership (HCSP). ...
Story posted October 22, 2013
- Across all age groups, student achievement is up since 2005
- More than 500 high-quality instructional personnel have been developed and retained through CAPE, a voluntary, tuition-based alternative to university programs created through a labor/management partnership
- In 2013, Charlotte County Support Personnel Association won a $5,000 AFT Solution-Driven Unionism Award for designing a professional development program in conjuntion with the district to attract, train and retain employees*
In Charlotte County, Florida, everyone understands that communities and students benefit when collaborative decision making becomes the norm. That’s why in 2002, the Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) invited members of the community to join the Charlotte Florida Education Association (CFEA) in constructing a comprehensive vision for the district. The partnership at the core of “Student Success” has transformed this lower-income district into one with strong student achievement. ...
Story posted September 20, 2013
This story is part of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills' 21st Century Learning Exemplar Program.
- Students outperformed state averages in almost all grades tested
- The district's graduation rate is 97.82%
- Chemistry teacher Trey Armistead’s analysis of year-over-year assessment results indicate that this year’s students - participating in the district's first significant step towards a competency-based curriculum - have outperformed every previous class
Van Meter is truly a learning community. Through a standards-based and personalized approach to instruction, students and teachers alike are mastering content and preparing to innovate and excel in a rapidly changing world.
About Van Meter Community School District
Van Meter is a small K-12 school district located a few miles west of Des Moines and includes just 650 students. In recent years, the district has implemented a 1:1 computing initiative, standards-based grading and the beginnings of competency-based instruction through a model chemistry class.
Van Meter’s size has enabled educators and district leaders to engage stakeholders at every level—including students themselves—in the development of the district’s educational framework. “We involve our students in a lot of the decisions that we make,” says Superintendent Deron Durflinger, “because we want it to be about their learning and to create an environment that’s most conducive to their overall educational experience.”
Prioritizing 21st Century Skill Development
Through a series of conversations, the district identified collaboration, communication, creativity and problem solving (the 4Cs) as essential characteristics of successful students. “When our students graduate from Van Meter, we want them to have a skill set that allows them to be successful in ...
Story posted August 27, 2013
- The percent of students reading at a 10th-grade level or above jumped significantly between October 2011 and May 2012 at all grade levels, rising from 9.9% to 23.7% of 9th graders, 21.6% to 33.5% of 10th graders, 25.3% to 36.2% of 11th graders and 45.6% to 53.1% of 12th graders.
- Performance assessments tracking student mastery of summarization (Common Core Reading Standard 2) revealed significant jumps in proficiency and advanced proficiency between October 2011 and May 2012.
- The staff easily reached their goal of 80% implementation in all classrooms.
- The school rose from the bottom 5% to the 55th percentile of the state in just nine months.
The high school was in the bottom 5% of schools in Michigan, the principal had been replaced, and the school had just received a grant to improve student achievement. The staff read Classroom Instruction That Works (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001), everyone was in a professional learning community by department, the school and district administration were deeply committed to improvement, and yet no one could articulate the teaching actions necessary to improve academic performance in a systematic manner.
The school is E.A. Johnson High School in Mt. Morris, Mich., near Flint, where the city has felt deeply the impact of the area’s economic decline. The student population is 72% free and reduced lunch.
The staff was willing to make the changes necessary for success but needed more than a book study. Many of the structures for professional learning were in place, such as opportunities for collegial dialogue, capacity building, and ...
Story posted August 27, 2013
- Reading proficiency is up from 34% in 2006 to 53%; Math is up from 51% to 63%
- Annual discipline referrals have fallen from 358 to 90
- 92% participation in parent-teacher conferences
Roosevelt Elementary of Allentown, Pennsylvania is one of 11 community schools supported by United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s COMPASS (Community Partners for Student Success) initiative. With more than 35 dedicated partners, including local businesses, nonprofit and community-based organizations, social service agencies, and faith-based organizations, Roosevelt is addressing students’ basic needs, such as health and dental care, as well as providing academic and social support through mentoring and enrichment opportunities.
The El Sistema Lehigh Valley afterschool music program, offered in partnership with Allentown Symphony Association, is just one of many examples of the opportunities provided to students at no cost at Roosevelt, but it clearly demonstrates how multiple partners can work together through a community school model to enrich students’ lives both in and out of the classroom. ...
Story posted July 23, 2013
- 11% increase in California Standardized Test scores across all grades between 2010-12
- Acadmic Performance Index rose from 674 to 725 between 2010–12
- 80 core parent volunteers and committee members, up from five in 2004
- 90% attendance at parent-teacher conferences, up from 50% in 2005
When Principal Richard Zapien and Community School Coordinator Stefanie Eldred first arrived at Hillcrest Elementary almost a decade ago, she was the Parent Liaison, and he was the Instructional Reform Facilitator. They encountered animosity between teachers and students, fights breaking out on the playground, and no community partners willing to get involved in such a contentious environment.
“Services can’t be delivered effectively when there is no stability,” says Eldred. So she and the then-principal made improving school climate their top priority—first by building stronger relationships with families in this diverse, southeast San Francisco neighborhood. Other key focal areas were providing professional development for teachers and interventions and support services for students. They knew these changes would translate into better behavior and engagement in the classroom. Eldred explains, “As much as this was about the kids, the teachers were the primary focus of our work when we started. We wanted to help teachers get what they needed to feel supported and to be able to focus on quality and innovative instruction. Without the buy-in of classroom teachers, a community school can only go so far.”
Today, Hillcrest’s climate is far more stable, inviting, and inclusive than it was 10 years ago. Rather than fighting on a regular basis, students are now better equipped to solve their own problems. Teachers lead daily community-building activities in ...
Story posted June 25, 2013
- 45 point gain in school API in the past year, with a 3-year gain of 71 points
- 500% increase in parent volunteerism in the past 7 years
- 98% of families now have health insurance, thanks to bi-annual health-coverage drives
When the Twin Rivers Unified School District took steps to close Harmon Johnson Elementary School three years ago because it was located next to a natural gas storage facility, parents petitioned the school board to keep their students together instead of dispersing them to other schools in the district.
Even though the school was involved in some community school work as part of a state-funded Healthy Start grant, it was this event “that really became the lightning rod that brought the parents together,” says David Nevarez, the principal of Johnson Elementary.
Ultimately, district officials listened to the parents and spent $1.4 million to renovate a nearby campus for the new site. Thus Harmon Jonson 2.0 was born. Because the new site was next to the existing Noralto Elementary School, the two principals along with district staff decided Noralto would serve pre-K-2nd grade and Johnson would have 3rd-6th grade. With a junior high school also nearby, Mr. Nevarez says, “We have lots to build a community around.” Parents even helped teachers pack up and ...
Story posted June 25, 2013
- 90% of students are proficient or advanced in math, and 80% are in reading, up from 39% and 55%, respectively, in 2003
- Recently, the district was identified by the state as being the 11th most-overachieving district in the state
Set on a hill above the small town of Scottdale, PA, Southmoreland Middle School serves about 450 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in a beautiful facility designed to house active young adolescents. A video clip on the school’s website describes the school as a place to learn and lead, where students have time to grow, and a dynamic community that is devoted to learning, achievement, and skill development. Southmoreland is that and so much more.
A Dismal History
In 2003, Southmoreland was a seventh- and eighth-grade junior high school in the warning category under NCLB for failing to make adequate yearly progress. Scores on state tests were grim—only 39% of the students were proficient or advanced in math and 55% in reading. Two years later, the combined improvement in reading and math scores resulted in the school being ranked 13th in the state; today 90% of the students are proficient or advanced in math and 80% in reading. The staff credits that growth to the transformation of the school culture from one of teacher isolation to one where collaboration permeates all aspects of ...
Story posted May 28, 2013
- In 2011, 84% of students met or exceeded state reading standards, up from 57% in 2006
- In 2012, 90% of students met or exceeded state standards in math, up from 69% in 2006
- More than 40% of students are English language learners, with 97% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches
Throughout the last five years, Talman Elementary School (Chicago, IL) has grown to foster a data-responsive culture. The “Talman Way,” as it is affectionately referred to, includes continuously improving our students, our methods, and ourselves through analyzing data and addressing what is working and what needs work.
As this work continues, we attempt to integrate best practices from everywhere, including other top-performing schools, to present quality instruction to our students. This process has included many changes to the programs at Talman, including staffing. Initially, 0% of our 3rd-grade students were meeting or exceeding state standards.
This reflected on all of our primary teachers, so we replaced two teachers to ensure that we were holding our students accountable to high expectations from the moment they entered Talman’s doors. Another change has been the initial ...
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 ...
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!