Over the past year, Education Lab has examined 17 schools, districts and approaches to learning last year, searching for proven results in student learning. Did the early promise we found continue? Did it increase? Here are updates from some of our most popular stories.
White Center Heights Elementary
After a year of boosting scores on state tests by double digits across the entire school, White Center Heights acknowledged far less rosy results after it took the new, Common Core tests this spring.
“We were at 50 percent proficiency across the building — not good,” said Principal Anne Reece. “I’ll tell you right now, my teachers are worried.”
Both of the Seattle middle schools in the Diplomas Now program had another year of encouraging results.
Denny Middle School had the top daily attendance rate for the month of September — 94.7 percent — among any of the 16 middle schools in the national Diplomas Now network.
Across town, Aki Kurose was honored as Middle School of the Year by Diplomas Now, and has kept its daily attendance rate steady at 95 percent — a marked upgrade from 2010, when more than half the school’s 600 students missed at least 10 days of class. Referrals for bad behavior are down 62 percent. Academic performance has improved steadily too.
Yet dwindling funds this year mean that both Aki and Denny are now making do with 16 fewer Diplomas Now staff.
Logan Square Parent Mentor program
This highly respected, Chicago-based program, which for 20 years has successfully created strong parent-school partnerships in low-income neighborhoods, has taken root in Seattle. A Seattle nonprofit, Communities and Parents for Public Schools, won two grants to import the program to city elementary schools — Dearborn Park International and one yet to be named.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association, which runs the Chicago branch, is now working with groups in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Charleston, West Virginia to establish the program in those cities.
The program recently won a 50-percent increase in funding from the Illinois State Legislature.
IGrad Dropout Re-engagement
Since last year, another 56 students have earned education credentials from the unlikely-looking school housed in a Kent shopping mall. iGrad also has added French and Spanish classes for students who need to make up foreign-language credits, as well as music, work readiness and game design for those who need to redo electives.
With 496 students currently enrolled — all of them for free until they turn 21 — iGrad’s Principal Carol Cleveland aims to get 1,000 youths on board by the end of the school year.
Project-based Advanced Placement
The teachers and UW researchers working to deepen what high-school students learn in Advanced Placement classes are now piloting a third course — A.P. physics.
They began with A.P. Government and A.P. Environmental Science, focusing the curriculum on projects rather than lectures. Those first two courses soon will be available, for free, to teachers nationwide, thanks to Edutopia, the nonprofit foundation headed by filmmaker George Lucas.
For this Renton school, which used to be one of the lowest performing in the state, the steady climb continues. On last spring’s state tests, the percent of students who passed math shot up once again, surpassing the Washington average for fourth and fifth graders. Reading scores in all grades are now close to the state average — unusual for a school where most students come from low-income families.
“It’s incredible to me that … there are no foregone conclusions about our school anymore,” said Principal Jessica Calabrese.