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.
Taking Flight in Queens
Story posted September 25, 2008. Results updated January 22, 2012.
• While serving a student population that is 97% free or reduced price lunch, the school outperformed the state in math in grades 4 through 8 in 2011.
• In English/Language Arts, the school outperformed the state in grades 4 through 7 in 2011.
• One highlight: 83% of 8th graders met or exceeded state standards in math, compared with just 60% statewide in 2011.
Osmond A. Church Elementary School, otherwise known as PS / MS 124, sits so close to John F. Kennedy Airport that some at the school refer to it as "Hanger 12." It is appropriate, then, that achievement scores have "taken off" in recent years and continue to soar within all subgroup populations.
How has this been accomplished, one might ask? It began in 1999 when the school applied to New York State for a Comprehensive School Reform Grant. The school community chose to embrace E.D. Hirsch's "Core Knowledge Program," which was developed on the basis of scientific research.
The school received $784,000 over three years to implement the Program. With support from the Core Knowledge Foundation, the entire school community--staff, students, and parents--began their journey and took off on an exploration of rigorous content knowledge instruction infused with skills development.
The curriculum change was a no-brainer for the Osmond Church School community, according to Principal Valarie Lewis, who was a teacher on staff at the program's inception. Mrs. Lewis told the Achievement Alliance she knew it was time for a change when students weren't improving even though teachers were giving 150% every day. Among the challenges facing teachers and students alike was persistent poverty--90% of students qualify for free lunch. In addition, students lacked the knowledge base to make them inquisitive or passionate about learning. Add to this mix a lack of adequate reading skills, and the school faced a recipe for minimal learning gains.
Under the Core Knowledge Curriculum, teachers and students follow a rich instructional framework, aligned to state standards, that creates enthusiasm for teaching and learning. At any given time, you can walk through the halls and hear conversations that belie the supposed grade-level abilities of the students--kindergarten students discussing Picasso, Georgia O'Keefe, Monet and Van Gogh; fourth graders reenacting the American Revolution; fifth graders exploring the works of Shakespeare. Middle school students delve into the lives of Aristotle, Plato, Confucius and Buddha, or they debate historical issues, drawing connections to modern day events. Eighth grade students are prolific writers developing thesis papers in science, social studies and English.
Within the Core Knowledge Curriculum, the school has expanded its focus on the arts. It offers dance with instruction from the Alvin Ailey Troupe. It has also developed a school band that studies the works of Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven, and holds performances that hearken back to another time. The chorus "Journey through History" performs music from many early and modern cultures.
The school has adopted a rigorous program to assess each student's skills and content knowledge. After reviewing data, administrators meet with all staff to develop a multi-faceted instructional plan which is anchored by an extensive writing initiative for all students. Differentiated instruction within the content areas provides all students excellent learning opportunities.
Osmond Church's adoption of the Core Knowledge Curriculum has paid off in student performance on statewide tests in English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. In 2008, for example, PS / MS 124 students at every level grades 3 - 8 matched or exceeded the proficiency rates of New York students as a whole, with 79.3% meeting state standards in ELA, 92.3% in Math, 87.9% in Science, and 89.8% in Social Studies.
Because of these and other achievements, Osmond Church has been recognized by New York State Department of Education as a "high performance / achievement gap-closing school" for the past 5 years.
MAY 2010 UPDATE: Osmond Church continued strong academic performance in 2008-2009, as evidenced by data found on the NYC Department of Education website. The school, where 97% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (compared to 44% of students in the state as a whole), outperformed the state on the tests that determine adequate yearly progress. 87.5% of Osmond Church students met or exceeded proficiency standards in reading. 94.7% of students met or exceeded proficiency standards in math.
For additional information, please contact:
Principal, Osmond A. Church School
Further details about this story can be found at:
Core Knowledge Foundation, "KCRW Radio Podcast: To The Point: Is It Time to Reform Education Reform?," October 22, 2007
New York City Public Schools, "2005-06 Annual School Report Supplement: PS 124 Osmond A Church," 2006
Inside Schools, "P.S. 124 Osmond A. Church School Review," updated 2005
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