Smaller learning communities are enabling more on-the-ground support in a Georgia district, and student test scores and graduation rates are on the rise.
Story posted December 2, 2009
• District students graduate college at double America's overall graduation rate
• About 65% of the graduation class has taken an AP exam
Editor's note: Dr. Jerry Weast has presided over a decade of strong and steady gains in Montgomery County, Maryland. How did his district do it? Not by using any of the cure-all strategies that have captivated the national media.
Weast recently told us the story of his school district's success. Several big themes stand out:
- Stop the blame game and start collaborating. Big fights between administrators and teachers are catnip to reporters, but they don't do much for children.
- Set common goals and figure out how to reach them. In Montgomery County, everyone could agree that students should leave high school ready for college.
- Create a system that helps everyone be successful. It's not enough to let 1000 flowers bloom.
- There's more to equity than equality. Weast describes a "red zone" where most of the county's low-income children live. It's not enough to treat those children and their wealthier "green zone" peers equally. The children in the "red zone" need much more systemic support.
There's much more to Dr. Weast's vision than I can sum up here. Here's the story as he told it to us in a phone conversation last week:
There are some structural issues in the way that we are thinking about American education. You see little Kindergartners come to school, and they believe that they can learn anything. Their parents do too. And so does everybody else who meets them. But a few years later, because of the sorting process and the type of structure that they are in, a lot of that belief is taken away and there are huge achievement gaps.
Then you see beginning teachers. They come in and they feel like they can take on the world and do anything. But within ...
Story posted September 3, 2009. Results updated August 27, 2010.
• 97.5% graduation rate in 2009, compared to 83% for the state as a whole
• 85% college acceptance rate in 2008, with at least 70% attending
“A college education is the key to a bright future." That's the message that Principal Sharon Johnson sends to prospective students in an introductory letter. "It's also a serious commitment that requires focus, preparation, and support," she continues. "Join us and reach for your college dreams!" With that introduction and the school motto--"Where every student is college bound"--there is no mistaking the goal for graduates of Withrow University High School in Cincinnati, OH.
Here, high expectations mean that every student is expected to attend college or a postsecondary program. In fact, all seniors must apply to the University of Cincinnati and are expected to complete four college applications before winter break. Even the school's architecture, which bears a likeness to a university campus, seems to echo the message that if a student can buckle down and focus, then the future will indeed be bright.
Since the opening of the school in 2002, Johnson has been steadfast in her belief that creating an atmosphere of success and high expectations is key to helping students achieve their college dreams. While most students arrive at Withrow lacking in some skills, the school quickly begins to ...
Story posted November 13, 2008
• Once designated "in need of improvement," the school has recently been commended by the state of New York
• 80 students enrolled in high school-level courses in 2007, up from 30 in 2001
• 28% of students participating in high school-level courses in 2007 were minorities, up from 10% in 2002
• 99% of staff approve of administrators' efforts to empower educators
"Built by the Past-Ready for the Future" is more than a school motto at Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle, NY. Built in 1925, Isaac became the iconic U.S. secondary school when Dick Sargent's painting of it appeared on the cover of the October 17, 1959, issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The changes that the school has experienced over the last 55 years mirror changes in the suburban United States. ...
A story about Canton City and Minerva Local (Stark) School Districts, Ohio
Story posted August 27, 2008
• 84% of participating parents are now at or above the national median in terms of engagement in academic stimulation
• SPARK kids do significantly better on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for Literacy (KRA-L) than non-SPARK kids
"Who doesn't want their students to come to school ready to learn?" asked Joni T. Close, senior program director at the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton. What parent, what principal, what superintendent and what school board member would disagree? But what influence do public schools have on their future students before they enter the schoolhouse door?
A lot, if you ask folks at the Canton City and Minerva Local (Stark) school districts. ...
Story posted July, 2008
• In 2005, 89% of students passed the Massachusetts math exam, up from less than 50% in 1999
• Now ranked in top 5% of Boston public schools on reading and math scores
In 1999, shortly before principal Mary Russo arrived at the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester, Mass., more than half the students failed the state math exam. Russo's mandate was to boost student achievement. To do so, she focused on establishing collaborative professional development practices that would help teachers learn from each other and work toward a common goal. With better instruction, she reasoned, those test scores would go up.
Teachers at Murphy now spend three times as many hours on professional development as the district requires. Every public school teacher in Massachusetts must ...
Story posted July, 2008
• 10-15% average annual increase in standardized test scores for 4 years
• 100% of the school's first graduating students passed the math portion of the state Graduate Qualifying Exam and 90% passed the language arts portion (both district records)
It's hard to imagine that George Washington Community School was once struggling so badly that the school district had to close it. Today, the school is alive with activity and its students are thriving.
The transition did not happen overnight-and it would not have happened at all if it had not been for the powerful commitment and intensity of support from the community. The work to reopen the closed high school grew out of a grassroots desire by the community to provide an environment where young people, and their families, could succeed. Neighborhood residents envisioned a center of community collectively focused on improving graduation rates and preparing young people for post-secondary education. ...
Story posted July, 2008. Results updated May 27, 2014.
- 92% of participating students passed the end-of-course test in Algebra II in 2013, up from 25% in 1998
- The school meets or exceeds state's proficiency rates in many subjects, despite serving a more disadvantaged population
Granby High School is a large, urban, and diverse high school in Norfolk, Virginia, serving over 2,200 students, nearly half of whom are considered economically disadvantaged. Here students are enrolled in and passing high-level math classes including Calculus and Statistics. However, 10 years ago, few Granby students were taking advanced math courses, and of those who did, few passed. The school was described as "a high school in distress with low academic achievement and a high incidence of behavioral problems." Granby needed a change. School leaders recognized the need to push all of their students to reach higher levels in math, not only to be successful in postsecondary education, but to prepare for career opportunities as well.
At this same time, Norfolk Public Schools instituted a whole-system overhaul and dramatically increased the focus on professional development. Since then, Granby students have made tremendous growth, especially in higher-level math courses.
Building strong math teachers: a challenging and important task
Granby High School offers a prime example of a school with a powerful approach to professional development that provides teachers with opportunities for ongoing learning where they can develop and maintain skills and content knowledge. The school's purposeful teacher education is ...
Story posted June 6, 2008
• 79% of students improved their academic performance
• 87% of students increased state benchmark scores in reading
• 76% of students increased state benchmark scores in math
Historically, George Middle School (a very diverse school with 87% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch) has been known as one of the lower performing schools in the state. Now, after becoming a community school, the school is showing steady growth on academic indicators. In particular, student test scores are at or above the state average. Multnomah County's Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) initiative, together with the school's lead agency, Metropolitan Family Service (MFS), have been instrumental in providing the supports and resources necessary to make this happen. ...
Story posted May 28, 2008
• 94% of students improved their grades after coming to Classic City High School
• 97% of students improved their attendance
• 150 students have graduated, with one-third pursuing post-secondary educational options
Clarke County School District's community has approximately 1,500 students ages 16 to 22 who are not enrolled in school-a number equal to the enrollment of each of its traditional high schools. The majority of these students are black or Hispanic, and many live in poverty. Because a high school education is critical to finding economically viable employment and because Athens-Clarke County has persistent, intergenerational poverty, the district decided to offer a way for dropouts to earn their diplomas. ...
Story posted May, 2008
• Improved school's nutrition environment
• The school cafeteria orders 30% more produce to keep up with demand
• Pre and post- program surveys indicate children eat more fruit, play outside more often and drink less soda
Dr. Crisp Elementary is an inner-city school in Nashua, NH that enrolls 425 students from preschool to grade 5. More than 65% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
In 2003, we had few guidelines regulating school nutrition. Children typically brought sugary snacks to schools. Classroom celebrations often included cupcakes, brownies and soda. The cafeteria's salad bar was empty.
In the fall of that year, the "Changing the Scene" program through the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension opened our eyes to the childhood obesity epidemic. Hardly a week went by without frightening reports on the health of today's children. We decided it was time take action. ...
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!