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WeightLoss.jpgRichard Simmons should feel vindicated by a new studies that demonstrate the importance of health and physical education. 

Today's on-line edition of Education Week reports that five elementary schools in Philadelphia have managed to control obesity rates among their students by keeping sodas and candy out of vending machines, trimming back snack foods, encouraging physical education and educating parents, teachers and children about healthy nutrition.

According to a study of these schools published today in Pediatrics, students in schools that followed these steps for two years were half as likely to become fat as students in schools that did not. ...

Mimi Bair is the principal of Memorial Middle School in Little Ferry, NJ, and a former staff member at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Weehawken, where she helped implement an innovative arts-focused curriculum that has helped the school's mostly low-income students outperform students state-wide.  (You can find's story on Woodrow Wilson Elementary here.)

Ms. Bair recently shared some of the secrets of her success.


The National Association of Secondary School Principals has released a list of Breakthrough Middle and High Schools for 2008.  NASSP and the Metlife Foundation have recognized these schools, all of which serve many poor students, for dramatically improving student achievement.  ...

Success Stories

Learning Communities Support Student Achievement

By Jennifer Klein on behalf of Fulton County Schools, Atlanta, GA

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 ...

From Fire Trucks to the Federal Court: An Academic Edge for Low-Income Students

Alabama Best Practices Center, on behalf of George Hall Elementary, Alabama

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. ...

A Partnership Focused on Leadership

By Cathy W. Gassenheimer of the Alabama Best Practices Center, on behalf of Tarrant City Schools, Alabama

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 ...

Designing an Exemplar: University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Alexander School

Penn Alexander School, Pennsylvania

Story posted March, 2008. Story Updated February 25, 2014.


  • Students at Penn Alexander outperformed the state in all subjects across all grades in 2012.
  • Students also outperformed the district and state in all grades in 2013.

When the University of Pennsylvania decided to revitalize their surrounding West Philadelphia neighborhood of University City in the late 1990s, they knew they had to start with an outstanding neighborhood school. Together with the Philadelphia school district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Penn designed and created the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School (otherwise known as Penn Alexander). The initiative has been a resounding success: Penn Alexander has showed some of the highest test scores in the city (in 2007, at least 80% of its students scored proficient or higher in state reading and math tests). What's more, the school has become a bridge connecting the neighborhood community with the university's vast resources.

Opened in 2001 with grades K-2 and 5-6, Penn Alexander has now expanded to serve over 500 pre-kindergarten through eighth graders. Students must live in the local catchment zone ...

Closing the Gap: A Union/District Partnership Spells Success for Low-Income Kids

ABC Unified School District, California

Story posted October 9, 2008. Updated February 25, 2014

Students in ABC Unified currently outperform state averages in ELA across all grades.

*The district's collaborative efforts have expanded significantly since 1993 and continue to provide a strong foundation for supporting student learning. More information can be found in Reforming Public School Systems Through Sustained Union-Management Collaboration by Saul A. Rubinstein, Ph.D. and John E. McCarthy

As superintendent of the ABC Unified School District in Southeast Los Angeles, Ron Barnes knew that averages can be deceiving. Home to one of the highest-performing schools in California, his school district's test score averages stood up well against state scores. Yet this small, urban district's overall high performance rate concealed large discrepancies in achievement.

In fact, six of the district's poorest schools struggled to meet reading goals. With a 90 percent minority population, high poverty rates and English Language Learners comprising more than half of their enrollments, these schools faced tough challenges ...

Transforming a School Step by Step

Melissa Glee-Woodard, Lewisdale Elementary School, Maryland

Story posted April 7, 2010. Results updated January 28, 2014.

Lewisdale outperforms average state proficiency rates in all grades and subjects except one, with a significantly higher population of low-income students.
In 2013, 80% of 5th grade students scored proficient or above in science, up from 49% in 2012, and outperforming the state by 13 points.

When Melissa Glee-Woodard became principal of Maryland’s Lewisdale Elementary School four years ago, it was struggling. The school was in the dreaded “school improvement” process because of the performance of multiple subgroups of students, and it needed change.

Change is what it got. But not the dramatic “fire-all-teachers” change that has been making the papers. Rather, Glee-Woodard inspired teachers, parents and students with a new vision. The staff began focusing on student data in a meaningful way. Targeted professional development addressed areas of weakness in the instructional program. And new summer programs ensured that students kept their academic success going even when school was not technically in session.

As a result, Lewisdale has made AYP every year Glee-Woodard has been principal. The National Association of Elementary School Principals recently honored her for her transformational leadership.

She joined us for a conversation about the school and its journey.

Public School Insights: How would you describe Lewisdale?

Glee-Woodard: Lewisdale Elementary School is located in an urban setting in Prince George's County, Maryland. We are in the backyard of the University of Maryland, College Park. It is a working-class neighborhood. 80% of our students are ...

Helping Students Demonstrate Their Math Knowledge

WestEd, on behalf of Fenway High School, Massachusetts

Story posted June, 2008.  Results updated January 28, 2014.

Fenway's MCAS performance continued its uphill trend in 2013, with 95% of students scoring proficient or above on ELA, up from 91% in 2012.
In 2013, for math, 84% of students scored proficient or above, up from 82% in 2012.
The school had a 92% graduation rate in 2013, up from 83% in 2007.

Fenway High has a unique history.  It was founded in 1983 as a program for students in at-risk situations who were failing in the more traditional high schools.  Fenway became a pilot school in 1995 and is now open to all students, serving a diverse population that is 44% African-American, 36% Hispanic, and 15% Caucasian, with 46% receiving free or reduced lunch.

Fenway has an innovative approach to student learning, most notably in math, and has seen significant improvement in test scores over the past few years. Fenway's principal and math chair both agree that their continuous improvement in mathematics is supported by three key elements:

  • Developing students' deep understanding of math
  • Using formative assessments to gauge student performance
  • Providing resources that both enhance and support students' math knowledge

Developing students' deep understanding of math
Because the ability to demonstrate or explain math knowledge is at the core of Fenway's math program, opportunities to communicate math concepts are critical. While performance on quizzes and exams is vitally important, a student's ability to communicate mathe­matical understanding to others is ...

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