2010 Breakthrough Schools

Brentwood High School – Redesignated in 2013
Brentwood, NY
Richard Loeschner, Principal
The key to Brentwood’s continued success has been their commitment to creating more intimate learning environments within their large school community in order to personalize student instruction. Original Designation: Tom O’Brien, Principal. The Brentwood community views this 3,600-student school as a “school of hope and opportunity.” This sprawling grade 10-12 complex on Long Island, NY, is home to students from 47 different countries. Six hundred of the students are English language learners, 500 receive special education services, 125 are students with interrupted formal education, and 62 percent are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. Five years ago, the school was identified as a “school in need of improvement” by the state of New York. Being identified as a failure became a wake-up call to raise expectations for students and teachers. Focusing on student instructional needs has resulted in dramatic gains on all accountability indicators and earned the school a designation of “in good standing.”

Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School
Collinsville, VA
Moriah Dollarhite, Principal
It is no accident that the staff at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School adopted a central tenet of Breaking Ranks in the Middle (BRIM) to banish anonymity by creating a personalized learning environment for all of its students. The school was created six years ago when the four middle schools in Henry County, VA, were consolidated into two middle schools. The difficulties associated with the consolidation were compounded by the closing of many of the area’s manufacturing plants, which left unemployment at 29 percent, with almost 50 percent of the students eligible for meal subsides. Today, the school stands as a shining example to the power of a personalized learning environment for all students. The results-continuously improving student achievement and the reduction of gaps between groups of students-demonstrate how when adults trust each other, work together strategically, and focus on student outcomes, all obstacles can be overcome.

Franklin Towne Charter High School – Redesignated in 2013
Philadelphia, PA
Joseph Venditti, CEO
Graduation has been the focus of Franklin Towne Charter High School’s enduring commitment to providing students with a quality education. Their goals include exposing students to the multitude of options available to them after graduation, providing them support to graduate on time, and guiding them with first-class college and career planning. Original Designation: Jason Kegel, Principal; Patrick Field, Former Principal. Founded in 1999 and located within the historic Frankford Arsenal grounds in the Bridesburg section of northeast Philadelphia, this charter school serves the needs of area students seeking a non-traditional educational experience with an emphasis on providing a strong academic foundation for success in college and beyond while encouraging participation in a broad range of extracurricular activities. Since 2006, when a new team of administrators, parents, staff, and community members lead a change in focus and direction, Franklin Towne has moved from one of the lowest-performing schools in Philadelphia to one of the highest-achieving schools-public or charter-in the state.

Mater Academy Charter Middle School – Redesignated in 2013
Hialeah Gardens, FL
Judith Marty, Principal
A strong emphasis on vertical teaming ensures the seamless curriculum that earns Mater Academy its redesignation as a Breakthrough School. The school’s curricular framework is based on the “Next Generation Sunshine State” requirements, which are currently in transition to the Common Core State Standards. Mater Academy is located in a commercial/industrial area in the city of Hialeah Gardens, just outside the city limits of Miami, FL, in what once was an abandoned big box store. The energy that transformed a vacant store and garbage dump into a thriving, multi-building campus for a grades 6-12 school is apparent in every classroom. Students, parents, community members, and staff all speak of the “magic” that is Mater. Striking as the physical transformation was, the continuing academic transformation is what draws people to the school. The Florida Grade A middle school leads the way on this campus. The school, a Title 1 public charter school, is funded by the state of Florida. The middle school’s current enrollment is more than 1,500 students, 94 percent of whom are Hispanic and 76 percent qualify for free and/or reduced-price meals.

Menominee Indian Middle School – Redesignated in 2013
Neopit, WI
Stephanie Feldner, Principal
Menominee continues its tradition of helping students succeed culturally, academically, emotionally, socially, and physically in all aspects of their lives. This 130-student public school is unique within the state of Wisconsin as its attendance area is almost entirely on Menominee tribal lands. This uniqueness is reflected in the school’s mission to ensure that each student has the opportunity to succeed culturally as well as academically. The school, located in the poorest county of the state and the 9th poorest county in the United States, has seen significant growth in both of these areas in the last four years. However, the school has moved from being classified as “needing improvement” to being named a Wisconsin School of Excellence. Staff and community attribute this success to the principal’s commitment to give everyone a voice in school operations. Teams oversee all facets of the school from student behavior to curriculum development.

Park View High School – Redesignated in 2013
Sterling, VA
Dr. Virginia Minshew, Principal
Upward trends have persevered at Park View HS despite its high-poverty population and an increase in its population of English language learners. This suburban high school is located in one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. Over the past five years, an influx of second-language students from 80 countries, representing 25 percent of the Park View population, has prompted a need for change in curriculum, instruction and the culture of the school. Numerous classes, programs, strategies, and opportunities are now in place to identify and support those in need. In addition, they help all students build a highly personalized school experience that allows them to pursue a meaningful and purposeful path in their post-high-school life. While facing the challenges of such a diverse population, Park View has exceeded all expectations by meeting both annual AYP requirements and by producing significant, ongoing upward trends on the Virginia Standards of Learning exams.

Ravenswood Middle School – Redesignated in 2013
Ravenswood, WV
Gary Higginbotham, Principal
Ravenwood’s place at the center of its highly transient, increasingly impoverished community is a testament to what excellent educators can do. Ravenwood earns redesignation for its efforts to serve both students and adults (athletic and adult education programs use the facility on a daily basis). The unassuming exterior of this small middle school belies the warm, caring environment that it provides for its 344 students and its record of continued academic growth and achievement. The school has moved from a position of corrective action to being recognized as an NCLB National Blue Ribbon School. The key to Ravenswood’s success is no secret. Students, parents, community members, and graduates consistently confirm that teachers care and treat every student as an individual. The professional learning community of teachers serves as an extended family network that is designed to support each student academically and emotionally.

San Diego Met High School – Redesignated in 2013
San Diego, CA
Mildred Phillips, Principal
Rigor and mentorship provide the backbone of San Diego Met’s philosophy for success. New emphasis on building leadership, problem solving, and thinking skills (and the continuation of its innovative student internship program) qualify the school for redesignation. The San Diego Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical High School (The Met) is a public grade 9-12 college-preparatory school of 200 students located on the San Diego Mesa Community College campus. The mission of this school is to prepare students for college and the workforce through active learning, academic rigor, and community involvement in a small-school setting. Students work in advisories of 20-25 students with the same teacher/adviser for all four years. Advisers, parents, and students design a customized academic learning plan focused on California State Content Standards and students’ career interests. In addition to the strong academic focus, students are exposed to the workforce through internships scheduled two days per week and earn college credits by attending classes at Mesa beginning in their sophomore year.

San Miguel High School
Tucson, AZ
Brother Nick Gonzales, Principal
This school was created to fill a vacuum in its south Tucson neighborhood, the poorest in the city. San Miguel High School was designed to integrate academics and career goals. A corporate internship program is the anchor for this vision. All grade 9-12 students work at an internship each week. Four students share a job and work once a week. Teachers weave the academic and career concepts of persistence with new tasks, teaming and collaboration, productivity and self-direction, complex reasoning (compare, classify, analyze, and construct and support), and precision and accuracy into their lessons so that they can daily reinforce the school’s mission of preparing every student for college and career.

Tefft Middle School – Redesignated in 2013
Streamwood, IL
Lavonne Smiley, Principal
A revitalized focus on Professional Learning Communities at departmental, interdisciplinary grade level, and faculty levels support professional dialogue and build a shared purpose, collective capacity, and sense of shared responsibility and Tefft Middle School. Evolving from a school where “teachers teach” to a school where “students learn” is an intense process that demands honesty, collaboration, and focused effort. Tefft Middle School in Streamwood, IL, a suburban/urban area west of Chicago, has made that effort. Its 760 students in grades 7-8 are highly diverse, both economically and ethnically. As long-time Principal Lavonne Smiley said: “With the advent of No Child Left Behind, we had to look in the mirror. Our students were not learning what we were teaching. We owed our students much more. We had to change…we had to embrace accountability.” The subsequent operational and instructional changes at Tefft were systematic and strategic and have become embedded in the school’s culture.