A Maine middle school prioritized collaboration, flexibility for teachers and building student and staff morale; as a result, student performance is improving.
Public School Success Stories
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Story posted January 27, 2015.
- 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. ...
Story posted July, 2008. Results updated November 18, 2014.
- 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. ...
Story posted November 18, 2014.
- 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. ...
Story posted December 9, 2008. Results Updated October 28, 2014.
• 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.” ...
Story posted April, 2008. Results updated October 28, 2014.
• 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." ...
Story posted October 28, 2014.
- 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 ...
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 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 November 6, 2008. Results updated July 22, 2014.
- In 2013, 94% of 6th graders, 96% of 7th graders and 90% of 8th graders scored proficient or above on state standardized tests in reading (exceeding both district and state averages)
- In 2013, 81% of 6th graders, 84% of 7th graders and 87% of 8th graders scored proficient or above on state standardized tests in math (meeting or exceeding both district and state averages).
The halls of Boaz Middle School are buzzing with energy. Students walk past bulletin boards displaying their work, as a visitor stops to browse the examples of graphic organizers and short essays. Teachers stand in the open classroom doorways, discussing students, strategies and the day's successes. Students stop to ask teachers for extra help with presentations and projects. Teachers stop students as they pass by just to ask how things are going. ...
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. ...
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