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2012 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools

2012 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools

Congratulations to the 2012 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools!


Bloomfield High School, Bloomfield, NJ

Christopher Jennings, Principal. Changing the culture of a large diverse high school from a place of teaching to a place of learning requires determination and the commitment of the entire school staff.  Documented growth for all students and closing achievement gaps over the last five years has demonstrated that Bloomfield High School has made this transformation.  BHS is a microcosm of America.  Its nearly 2000 students, 45% of whom are economically disadvantaged, and 16% of whom receive Special Education services, are almost equally African American, Caucasian and Hispanic.  Consistent academic growth over time has led to the community’s resurgent pride in the school and the school being named a 2010 National Title I Distinguished School. 

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Lafayette Academy Charter School, New Orleans, LA

Interview with Head of School Mickey Landry

 Mickey Landry, Head of School. Established as a public charter school in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans community it serves, the true rebirth of this Pre-K through Grade 7 school of 800 occurred in 2007 with the appointment of a new Head of School. Since then, the student body, which is nearly 100% economically disadvantaged, has been the beneficiary of a shared leadership model, intensive staff development, strengthened community connections and equal access to rigorous coursework. The results are an impressive upward trend from the disappointing 33% passing rate on the required 4th grade state tests in 2006 to a 100% passing rate in 2010 and 2011, earning the state’s top designation as a “Center of Excellence.”

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Lesher Middle School, Fort Collins, CO

Interview with Principal Thomas Dodd

Thomas Dodd, Principal. Lesher Middle School is a school of choice as are all of the schools in the Poudre (Colorado) School District.  In 2004 it was a traditional junior high school with a declining enrollment. The school had an International Baccalaureate Middle Years (IBMY) program that was open to select students. Today, it is a thriving middle school, at capacity enrollment with 700 students, 40% of whom are economically disadvantaged, coming from 29 elementary schools.  Now all students are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program experiencing a global perspective to their studies.  Lesher’s transformation and very survival was built on the belief that in order to ‘break ranks’ every adult needed to commit to the success of every child.

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Oscar F. Smith Middle School, Chesapeake, VA

Interview with Principal Linda Scott

Linda Scott, Principal. Tucked into the historic South Norfolk section of the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, Oscar Smith is home to a diverse student body of nearly 950 sixth, seventh and eighth graders. With a high unemployment rate and pervasive poverty in the community, 84% of the students are considered economically disadvantaged and 25% are enrolled in special education. Seven years ago, the staff at Smith, under the leadership of a new principal, initiated a systematic process to address student needs. Targeting poor academic performance through a data-driven differentiated instruction model, notable progress has been made. The school community has reviewed and refined the numerous changes and supports, collaboratively institutionalizing the processes and procedures that made it possible.

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Pierce County High School, Blackshear, GA

Anthony Smith, Principal. Whether in a classroom or on an athletic field, student achievement drives the success that builds pride in a community and a school. Nowhere is this truer than at Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia.  The school’s 965 students, almost half of whom are economically disadvantaged, have demonstrated what leadership focused on student learning can accomplish.   In 2004 PCHS ranked at the bottom of the state in students passing the high school graduation tests and only 55% of the students graduated.  In 2011, 86% of the students graduated and the school ranked 17th in the state on the graduation exams.   Everyone wants to be the best – a result of high expectations, solid achievement and collaboration.

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The Preuss School UCSD, La Jolla, CA

Scott Barton, Principal.  This 6-12 public charter school of 800 provides an intensive college preparatory education for low-income students drawn from all over San Diego, each representing the first generation in their family to attend college. Through the implementation of a single-track curriculum, smaller classes and individualized student supports, Preuss has achieved impressive results. Tenth grade students have attained a 100% pass rate on the California High School Exit Exam for the past five years. The school boasts a 99% graduation rate, 97% attendance rate and a 96% rate of acceptance of its seniors into four-year colleges, excellent examples of the school’s proven success and why it was recognized by Newsweek as the nation’s top 2011 “Miracle High School.”

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Vallivue Middle School, Caldwell, ID

Interview with Principal Rod Lowe

Rod Lowe, Principal.  Sitting at a high point overlooking a beautiful valley near Boise in Southern Idaho, this rural 6-8 middle school has recently experienced tremendous growth and challenges in all facets of the school. Through teamwork implementing a highly developed strategic planning process, Vallivue move from the state designation of “Needs Improvement” to "New School" status in four years. With a more clearly defined emphasis on discipline and attendance issues, as well as a collaborative restructuring of the curriculum, the introduction of best practices instructional methods and adoption of a data driven assessment model, an environment has been created where the 700 students, of which 70% are economically disadvantaged and 30% are LEP learners, excel.

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Wade Hampton High School, Greenville, SC

Lance Radford, Principal. The turning point for this historic 50-year-old urban school located in the second largest city in South Carolina was the appointment of a new principal in 2005. Since then, the entire school community speaks of the incredible transformation that has taken place under his energetic leadership. Not only have significant strides been made in academic achievement, but also improvements can be seen in all aspects of this school of 1600, from discipline and attendance to athletics and extracurricular activities. The school’s success has been realized through “hands-on” leadership and the active participation of all stakeholders, which has resulted in WHHS being named the 2010 “Carolina First Palmetto’s Finest High School” for these achievements.

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West Carter Middle School, Olive Hill Kentucky

Interview with Principal Ryan Tomolonis

Ryan Tomolonis, Principal. West Carter Middle School has not retained a student in the last five years.  Staff proudly points to this fact as evidence that their decision to not permit zeros is working.  Coupled with the ‘no zero’ policy were a number of programmatic supports in mathematics and reading/language arts as well as a strong tutorial program offered multiple times during the day that allowed all students to meet state standards and demonstrate significant academic growth.  Six years ago, the school with 475 students in 6th through 8th grade, 69% of whom are economically disadvantaged, was one of the lowest performing middle schools in Kentucky; today, the students outperform 90% of the students in the state. 

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Woodbridge Middle School, Woodbridge, VA

Interview with Principal Skyles A. Calhoun

Skyles A. Calhoun, Jr., Principal. Woodbridge Middle School’s transformation is a story about strong principal leadership working collaboratively with the entire school staff to teach each student. This was not a school in need of a transformation; rather it was a school that due to boundary shifts experienced a rapid demographic change necessitating a close examination of instructional practices to meet the needs of entering students.  Today’s school in no way resembles the school that was in existence in 2005.  Then the students were mostly white and middle class; today, there is no majority group among the 1038 students and almost 50% of the students are economically disadvantaged.  Then, student achievement was average; now it is significantly above average.

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