Eric Jensen’s Extreme Schools: How Miracles Happen


This is an update on an “Extreme School” in Los Angeles County, California. Not long ago, this high K-5 poverty school had neighborhood drug dealers coming ON CAMPUS. The outside aesthetics of the school were deplorable, with deteriorating buildings. The district rates schools (academically) on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 as highest). This school was a “1” out of ten (the lowest possible ranking.

RESULTS? Today, it is the envy of the school district! What did they do and how did it turn out? Are you ready for another miracle?


Eligible for free/reduced price lunch: 86%
6% Anglo, 85% Latino
Ranking compared to similar schools: 9 of 10
Achieved academic performance growth target: Yes


The school went from a 1 to an 8 in the district! The school staff is positive, and the kids are succeeding every day. A stunning turnaround orchestrated by a passionate, driven, committed principal who refuses to allow her students to fail. Her school had the second best attendance in the district and made the honor roll four years in a row!


Three Paths: Safety, School culture and a staff “Can-do” attitude.

A few years ago, when new Principal Dr. Jean Maddox took over the school, she immediately went after the number one factor for learning, school safety! She secured the school boundaries with fencing to keep unwanted outsiders away from the campus. Second, she went after the aesthetics. She found a painter who did fabulous murals to ensure the school looked inviting to attend. Meanwhile, she was getting trained herself to be a in-house staff developer and leader to be reckoned with!

First, Dr. Maddox went after staff morale. The staff was blaming everyone instead of focusing on what they could actually do. To respond, she used many strategies for teambuilding and class-building, while staying focused on student achievement and what is good for kids.

Second, she used data to focus instruction and looking at teaching skills to see what was needed to build up staff skills. She met with teachers throughout the year (she used a roving sub take their classroom, so she could have the time to discuss their individual students in their class and start focusing on the change needed).

Third, while training her staff, she was able to start hiring teachers who were new and willing to help students achieve.

Fourth, she took her staff through building a strong vision for student learning.

Fifth, Dr. Maddox is a relentless force for ongoing staff development, using constant trainings and book studies and follow up. She bought books for each staff member (i.e. Tools of Engagement, Different Brains for Different Learners, Conscious Discipline and SuperTeaching) and let them know, in explicit terms, that “We are going to succeed!”

Meanwhile, the district keeps hiring away her best staff and offers untrained teachers as replacements, so her job continues as a challenge. But she is working on new approaches and training for her staff to be a total team for kids. The good news is, the scores went up again last year!

Foster Road Elementary, in the Norwalk La Mirada School District, Los Angeles County. The school website is


What can you learn from the true story mentioned above? The only good that happens in this world are when you move things from inside your brain to the outside world. What ideas, principles or strategies were either affirmed OR, what was new to you? Could this be a topic of discussion at your next staff meeting?

Finally, miracles do happen every day. Are you ready to one of them?

FINALLY:If your Title 1 school has an “Extreme School” story to tell (whether you have moved up or are currently struggling, please email me your story to: In the subject line, put “Extreme School” story. Thanks.

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning
Brain-Based Education

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply