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Urban success stories

  • NJ: Small academies help students make the grade
    Summary: This high school transitioned from a traditional high school to one that houses smaller learning communities called academies that are modeled after the Talent Development High School. Along with three specific career academies the school included a special ninth grade academy. As a result student achievement, attendance, and parental involvement have all increased.
  • CA: Helping all students graduate
    Summary: In San Jose, California, all students pursue a college-preparatory curriculum to earn their diplomas. As a result, the district has raised its graduation rate, lowered its drop-out rate, and seen improved student achievement, especially among minority students. In 2001, only 23 percent of Hispanic twelfth graders in San Jose Unified School District graduated with the requirements they needed to enroll in one of California’s four-year public colleges. It was a sobering statistic for an urban district where half the students are Hispanic. But school officials weren’t the only ones concerned. Parents, community members, even the students themselves said the district needed higher expectations for its
  • UT: Parents and students learning together
    Summary: With funding from an outside source, this district not only developed a comprehensive program to improve the literacy skills of it's English language learners by helping to improve their parent's literacy skills, but learned how to sustain the funding as well.
  • OH: Tough times, tough measures: Funding strategies that work
    Summary: Schools and districts often shy away from outside funding because it's too hard to sustain. Not this district. It embraces outside funding by including it in its strategic planning, getting to know its funders, and inviting them into the school community.
  • FL: Creativity and hard work—a formula for success
    Summary: All students in this Miami magnet school graduate and most go on to college. A small school environment, high expectations, consistent grade monitoring, and community and parent involvement make this an award-winning school.
  • KS: Elementary closes the achievement gap
    Summary: While language and income issues can be barriers to student success, this school's literacy frameworks (for all grade levels) provides teachers with a structure for developing students' aptitude in reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Through consistent professional development, data-driven decision making, and high expectations for all students, this school has closed the achievement gap for low income students and English language learners.
  • WI: Embracing a spirit of innovation at Walden III
    Summary: This small magnet school starts with the assumption that all students are responsible for their learning even though many who attend aren't in the mainstream at other schools. Nevertheless, high expectations, personal guidance, and active parent involvement help students grow into this responsibility. Walden's goal is to have a student body that mirrors the district's overall demographics regardless of student ability, and all students rise to the challenge outscoring both district and state averages on Wisconsin's state test.
  • NC: Middle colleges make a difference for struggling high school students
    Summary: Disengaged and disconnected students find a way to shine at Guilford County (NC) middle colleges. The middle college environment, which is on college and university campuses, surrounds these students with positive role models; helps them acclimate to higher standards; and become, once again, engaged in school and learning. The result? Since 2000, the district's dropout rate has been cut in half.
  • MI: District gets physical with reading
    Summary: Combining an imaginative system for teaching reading with creative use of school facilities, transportation, and the Boys & Girls Clubs has provided this district with a successful formula for helping struggling students become better readers. Reading isn’t a quiet, sit-by-yourself-in-your-seat activity for students who attend after-school tutoring sessions at Wick and Merriman Elementary Schools in Michigan’s K–6 Romulus Community Schools . Sounds, letters, and words are munched, crunched, and pounced on as students learn with Body Phonics, a tactile and kinesthetic approach to reading. Everything is fair game as tutors use hand signals, storytelling, and picture drawing to sear the connections between sounds and letters—the base of
  • TN: Hamilton County urban schools nurture good teachers
    Summary: This urban school district needed a new approach to teacher retention when a number of its elementary schools were ranked among the twenty lowest performing schools in the state. The solution, called the Benwood Initiative, uses a multifaceted approach that has helped district teachers find a professional home. Now schools are showing progress in many areas including staff stability and acadamic achievement.
  • OR: Parents power Portland schools' rebound
    Summary: Financial difficulties, due to a drop in student enrollment, were forcing this district to take drastic measures to make ends meet. Couple that with an ineffective and stale board and the district was headed for disaster. But when parents got involved, launching a group called Help Out Public Education (HOPE), things began to turn around. With a new board—and time—things are looking up. Parents are once again opting to send their children to Portland's public schools and achievement on standardized tests is improving at most grade levels. Although the district still faces financial challenges, fewer cuts were made than originally anticipated and the board is working hard to partner with the community to revamp its high schools and boost civic engagement.
  • GA: District fares well in weathering change
    Summary: Bracing for a change in demographics before it actually happened helped this district plan accordingly. As a result, community involvement is at an all-time high and student achievement levels are consistently raising.
  • PA: District communicates that 'Every Child Counts'
    Summary: While this district values standardized testing, it believes that individual academic and personal growth matter just as much, and is letting its students and parents know through the Every Child Counts program.
  • FL: School district gets the vote out
    Summary: By being forthcoming with the community, this district was able to get out the vote and secure a tax increase to raise teacher salaries and boost reading and arts programs.
  • TX: School district tackles truancy
    Summary: Truancy played a big role in the dropout rate in this Texas school district. But with a coordinated, preventive effort in truancy intervention, this problem is on the decline and the district expects even more improvement in the future.