Dr. Darling-Hammond discusses the benefits of college and career ready standards for improving conditions for both teacher and student learning.
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 August 27, 2009. Results updated August 24, 2014
- In 2013, 89% of students scored proficient or advanced in math, exceeding the state profiency rate by 4% while serving a larger proportion of disadvantaged students
- In 2013, 69% of students scored proficent or advanced in math, exceeding the state proficiency rate by 4%
According to the numbers, Central Elementary School in Roundup, Montana, seems to fit the currently fashionable definition of a “turnaround” school. After many years of below-average test scores, the school has recently made double-digit gains in the number of its students meeting proficiency on the statewide assessment. In true turnaround fashion, that improvement appears to have happened in a very short period of time.
As recently as the 2005–2006 school year, for example, Central’s math score was nearly 20 percentage points below the state average. In the following school year that proficiency rate went up by 16 percent, and by 2007–2008 the school was six points higher than the state average in math. Meanwhile, the school’s reading score, while consistently above the state average, also rose by nearly 20 percentage points between 2003–2004 and 2007–2008. This fall the school received a National Title I Distinguished School award, based on “exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years.”
Ask current principal Vicki Begin about the school’s success, however, and she’ll insist that it’s been anything but a quick turnaround. in fact ...
Story posted August 26, 2014
- Currently an Oregon Model school, a designation reserved for the highest-performing top 10% of schools in the state (a significant change compared to 2008, when student achievement was lackluster with significant achievement gaps)
James Johnston asked teachers at Alice Ott Middle School in Portland, OR, “What would you want done if your child’s name was on this list?” The discussions that followed led to building a new reading program intended to bring struggling students to grade level and enrich the skills of those already on grade level. Gone was the large amount of time spent on sustained silent reading that had no purpose other than having students read material of their choosing with no direct instruction. In its place was a tiered program of interventions designed to diagnose and eliminate reading difficulties. Complementing this approach was a schoolwide focus on literacy development across content areas. Every student would have a specific plan to develop and enhance his or her skills. The vision was to have all students on or above grade level by the end of eighth grade. ...
Story posted July 22, 2014
- Oberlin High has been rated as Excellent by the state four times in the last six years
- Each year since 2011, every Oberlin High senior has applied and been accepted to a postsecondary institution
- In 2005–06, seven students were enrolled in the school's one AP course; in spring of 2014, students registered for 190 AP exams
- In 2011, ACT Midwest named Oberlin High as a recipient of the Red Quill Award for increasing in both the number of students taking the ACT and the school’s composite score
Tucked into an appealing residential community, lined with majestic trees and well-kept homes, Oberlin (OH) High School serves the educational needs of approximately 400 students in this small city of 8,000. Located just 35 miles from downtown Cleveland, Oberlin is the home of the storied Oberlin College, one of the nation’s leading private liberal arts institutions, known throughout the country as the home of the oldest and one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the nation. Founded in 1833, this college is the longest continuously operating coeducation university in the United States. Currently, it has grown to include a 440-acre campus and offers more than 50 majors, adding nearly 3,000 college students and staff members to the city’s population during the school year. Oberlin College students have a reputation for being notably progressive, as demonstrated by their political activism and unshakable support of diversity, social equity and justice, and environmental sustainability. Coupling these ideals with the outstanding academic resources it offers to the community, the influence of Oberlin College on the city and school system cannot be overestimated. ...
Story posted June 24, 2014
- 99% of fourth grade students reading proficiently
- Progress and development in K-1 writing
How does the principal of a large PK-6 elementary school – a former reading coach well-versed in ARI fidelity – learn to lead a schoolwide transformation to project-based learning?
With the help of some pushy experts, she says. Experts who happen to be teachers in her own school.
Julia Gordon "Julie" Pierce came to Gulf Shores Elementary School as principal in 2008, after 15 years as a teacher and reading coach and a three-year apprenticeship as an assistant principal. An Alabama native, Pierce had a relatively brief first career as an accountant ("my dad urged me to go into business instead of teaching"), then earned her masters degree from UAB and taught in elementary and middle grades for 13 years, some spent in Florida.
Most of the Alabama part of Julie Pierce's career has been spent in Baldwin County, where she was trained by the Alabama Reading Initiative in 2002 and coached at Summerdale School as it added 6th, 7th and 8th grades in just three years time. "I learned a lot about the progression of readers as they move up through the middle grades," she remembers. ...
Story posted June 24, 2014
- 70% of instruction in the intermediate and upper grades is now project-based
- Developed network of teacher leaders and created a leadership team
In Part 1 of the story about the transformation at Gulf Shores Elementary into a project-based learning school, principal Julie Pierce recalled her own early resistance, based on concerns about maintaining a strong reading program, and how teacher leaders in her school convinced her both things were possible. In Part 2, Pierce reflects on the journey so far and offers some insights gained from the experience.
This spring, when a group of educators visited Baldwin County's Gulf Shores Elementary for an "instructional round" organized by the Alabama Best Practices Center, they compared the PK-6 school's one-page instructional target document with what they saw during their observations.
The target laid out the GSES educators' vision of "what we want to be doing and what we want the kids to be doing" in two years, says principal Julie Pierce.
The visitors, all participants in ABPC's school and district networks, told the GSES leadership team that "you are living and breathing your one-page target. You are totally on track. You understand where you are headed and you are of a common mind about it."
ABPC director Cathy Gassenheimer, who participated in the instructional round, agrees. "The school is amazing. In my opinion, it is an exemplar of a technology-infused school where students are using the tools most of the time to do project learning in very powerful ways ...
Story posted June 24, 2014
- The reading gap closed for almost every student in just 17 days
- Readers recognized their own growth and increasing proficiency
Thirty-five miles north of Seattle sits the merged campus of Quil Ceda and Tulalip Elementary schools. The schools are on the Tulalip Indian Reservation and, together, serve just over 500 students, of which 63 percent are American Indian and a majority receives free or reduced-price lunch.
When about 50 percent of the schools’ second graders were losing ground on reading fluency, a decision was made to “flood” second graders with support. The results were a torrent of good news—the gap closed for almost every student in just 17 days.
Co-administrators of these schools, Anthony Craig and Kristin DeWitte, have a vision for their school community.
“We want to catch [achievement] gaps before they begin,” says DeWitte. “Our expectation is that each student makes a year or more growth each year.” ...
Story posted January 22, 2009. Story updated April 22, 2014.
- In 2013, students in grade 5 met or exceeded average state proficiency rates in all subjects.
- In 2013, students in grade 4 met or exceeded average state proficiency rates in all subjects but one.
Although it opened only six years ago, Skyview Elementary School in scenic Lizella, Georgia, has already gained a reputation as an educational star. As a member of the National Basic Schools Network, which focuses on the four building blocks of community, curriculum, climate, and character, Skyview has a sound framework. But it is the passion, dedication, and wonderful vision of its dedicated former and present staff that has made this Title I school, where 50% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, soar to great heights in academics and character. ...
Story posted December, 2007. Results updated April 22, 2014
• In 2013, students in grade 11 exceeded state proficiency rates in math, science and reading.
Ten years ago, Cottage Grove High School, named for the Oregon lumber town in which it's located, was little more than a pit stop for many teenages who'd eventually drop out and work in the mills. Today, most of those mills are shuttered, and the 900-student school--brimming with AP and professional-technical courses and equipped with robotics, plastics and computer labs--graduates more than 95 percent of its students. ...
Story posted October 30, 2008. Results updated March 25, 2014.
• In 2013, 100% of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders scored proficient or above in math
• In 2013, over 95% of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders scored proficient or above in reading
"There's not a minute to be lost." That's the mantra in many high-needs schools today, where the pressures of high-stakes accountability have reduced the time spent on "untested" subjects and activities like art, music, drama and physical education. And perhaps no brand of school fun has taken the drubbing given to the venerable Field Trip in recent years. Trips away from school often take most or all of the day, and a day lost from intensive instruction (and test preparation) is no small matter to the principals of high-needs schools, where children often have a lot of catching up to do. ...
Story posted August 11, 2011. Results updated February 25, 2014.
Students continue to perform well in both reading and math, with 91% at or above proficient in reading and 92% at or above proficient in math on the 2013 Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT), despite serving a student population with 96% of students eligible for free and reduced lunch
Sandwiched between interstates, industrial plants and a 2.3-mile Birmingham International runway sits the small urban community of Tarrant, Alabama. Tarrant City serves about 1300 students in four schools: elementary (K-3), intermediate (4-6), middle (7-9) and high (10-12). Many of Tarrant’s children grow up in poverty, live in substandard Section 8 housing, and breathe air tainted by industrial pollution. The district has one of the highest eligibility rates for free or reduced-price lunch in the Birmingham metro area.
The city has an aging population with little space to develop new middle-class homes. Over the past decade and a half, Tarrant has experienced a dramatic demographic shift as traditional blue-collar and industrial employment began to disappear and ...
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!