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Extreme Schools: How Title 1 Miracles Happen Every Day

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Our featured “Extreme School” is one of the nation’s largest Title 1 elementary schools in the country. At one time, it had 2,000 students. Today, the district helped reduce the student load to “only” 1,000 students. Many of the students come from a community of poor and immigrant families. Almost none speak English when they arrive.

How does this school perform?

THE CHALLENGES TO SUCCESS:

The two biggest challenges for academic success are: 1) poverty and 2) non- English speaking students. This school has BOTH issues. Most of the school’s nearly 1,000 students come from immigrant Central American and Korean families. The data shows over 90 percent of the students were living below the poverty level, and ALL were from immigrant families, with a language other than English as a first language. You think your school has ELL issues? This school would rank right up near the top in ALL challenges.

If this were your school, how would you react? Would you find another school to work at, one less challenging? Or, could you honestly say you would do everything possible to make miracles happen at this school? After all, teaching is easy. Teaching well is hard.

HOW DID THEY MAKE MIRACLES HAPPEN?

The story is about one amazing Title 1 teacher who made a difference in the entire school. He changed the culture and changed the lives of thousands along the way.

Today, the school staff is not perfect, but pretty amazing. First, the staff knows there are no excuses for underperforming students. The staff KNOWS that every kid can achieve.

How do they know that? Read more

What’s it like teaching in a high-performing school?

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By popular demand, we feature a teacher this month, not an entire school. After all, teachers make the difference. This teacher works at an “Extreme School.” Her high school is one of many underperforming schools in this low-performing district, within a high-poverty area. Another teacher in her place might feel like she has the deck stacked against her and every excuse to give up on her kids. Every other teacher at her school already has their excuses lined up, but this teacher doesn’t give up. In fact, the achievement scores that HER kids get are.

THE TEACHER

“In fact, the achievement scores that HER kids get are… so awesome that 100 percent of her students passed their state-mandated, end-of-course exams despite data from the state’s predictive model suggesting that over a third would not.” In short, she out-teaches every other teacher in her district.

Her school, Ben Smith High School, has 1,200 kids and 80% of its kids are from poverty. Academically, the school performed worse than 75% of the schools in North Carolina, meaning that Ben Smith is in the bottom 25%. About 96% are children of color. As a school, it struggles. But, is the problem with the kids or the staff?

First a bit of background about HOW this teacher succeeds… Read more