2014 Breakthrough Schools

Alice Ott Middle School
Portland, OR
James Johnston, Principal
Alice Ott Middle School did not become an Oregon Model School overnight. The school’s 722 students in grades 6-8 come from diverse backgrounds, speak dozens of languages-and with 73 percent being eligible for free and/or reduced price meals-face challenges not found in neighboring schools. Improved student achievement happened continuously over four years and was based on rebuilding the school’s reading program to provide direct instruction as well as multiple levels of intervention and enrichment. A schoolwide focus on literacy development across content areas complements the reading program. Staff credits their systematic decision-making plus a commitment to stay the course to allow changes to solidify as significant factors in achieving student gains.

Garner Magnet High School
Garner, NC
Drew Cook, Principal
The staff at Garner Magnet High School has decided that this diverse, comprehensive, 2,400 student suburban high school is going to be a great school. They have vowed to not let the challenges associated with high student poverty, poor facilities, changing assessments, and unfunded mandates get in the way of their students’ academic success. The school’s model of improvement relies on interconnected teams of stakeholders working together to make their goal of every student graduating a reality. A cross-disciplinary task force for each key process in the school’s improvement plan collects and analyzes data to insure implementation of each action step. Everyone has a voice and takes pride in their shared results.

Hastings Middle School
Hastings, NE
David Essink, Principal
Located in a beautiful rural city 90 miles west of Lincoln, this middle school is home to nearly 800 students in grades 6-8. In 2008, when the school moved to a spacious 30-acre site and into a new building designed especially to accommodate a teaming approach, a true middle level philosophy, curriculum, and instructional program was adopted. Nearly 60 percent of the student body-which is 75 percent white and 18 percent Hispanic-qualifies for free and/or reduced price meals and over 25 percent receive special education services. However, with strong community connections, common goals, and a collaboration approach, the staff has been successful in creating a program that meets the needs of all of its students.

John Marshall Fundamental Secondary School
Pasadena, CA
Mark Anderson, Principal
Through a district-run open enrollment process, Marshall Fundamental Secondary School serves over 1,800 diverse students in grades 6-12 where almost three-quarters are eligible for free and/or reduced price meals. Marshall is committed to providing students rigorous coursework-using Advanced Placement courses as a benchmark for rigor. Personalized four-year plans, academic supports, interventions, and local community partnerships contribute towards a cohort graduation rate over 95 percent. The arts are an integral part of education at Marshall and are supported by cultural arts community partnerships. Local college and university partnerships provide additional classes and resources. This collective community engagement and parental involvement supports students “Soaring to Success!”

Maplewood Richmond Heights High School
St. Louis, MO
Kevin Grawer, Principal
With a motto of “One Size Fits Each,” Maplewood Richmond Heights High has been transformed over the last eleven years from a school about to be taken over by the state to being recognized for “Distinction in Performance.” This comprehensive high school of 340 students-54 percent of whom are disadvantaged economically-is an example of a successful turnaround. Teachers and administrators built trust with the community by visiting every home. Opening lines of communication with families has underscored the importance of these relationships. The success of this continuing and sustained effort has been measured by increased enrollment and community involvement. The resulting personalized environment has led to improved student achievement.

Oberlin High School
Oberlin, OH
William Baylis, Principal
A 400-student, rural high school serving grades 9-12, Oberlin mirrors the socioeconomic and ethnic diversity of the small community it serves with 51 percent of the population eligible for free and/or reduced price meals and 45 percent designated as minority. The district has established the International Baccalaureate Program for all students through grade 10 and both the IB certificate and diploma programs for grades 11 and 12. Technical classes are available at the Joint Vocational School and Oberlin proudly excels in the visual and performing arts. Planned so students may explore and develop their full potential, 100 percent of the most recent graduating seniors have been accepted to a college or university with 97 percent choosing to pursue higher education.

Sleepy Hollow High School
Sleepy Hollow, NY
Carol Conklin-Spillane, Principal
Above the east bank of the Hudson River in southern Westchester County, approximately 20 miles north of New York City, Sleepy Hollow High School serves nearly 900 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students (52 percent are eligible for free and/or reduced price meals). Strategies and structures allow a culture of personalization to flourish, and “personalization is our hallmark” is a point of pride. Grade level “communities” meet monthly with adult mentors staying with a group throughout four high school years. Administrators and teachers know each student well and are in constant communication with families-demonstrating a belief that caring relationships build student resilience. Faculty encourages flexibility and provides supports that assure student academic and personal needs are met.

Troy Howard Middle School
Belfast, ME
Kimberly A. Buckheit, Principal
Situated in a rural area on Maine’s coastline, this grade 6-8 school of 400 had been failing its students for many years. With 80 percent of the enrollment eligible for free and/or reduced price meals or coming from working poor families, addressing their needs was a formidable, unmet challenge until the appointment in 2003 of an innovative principal who imagined something better. Troy Howard is now a learning community with multi-year interdisciplinary academies, learning standards aligned with the Common Core embedded within the framework of overall instructional themes, crucial student support provided through a 60-minute per day intervention model, and schoolwide Restorative Justice practices to address behavioral issues that may interfere with student achievement.

William Smith High School
Aurora, CO
David Roll, Principal
Clear, visible learning targets for both students and staff are at the core of William Smith High School’s success. Seven years ago this diverse, 300-student, grade 9-12 school serving large numbers of students living in poverty was known as the “last chance high” in Aurora, Colorado. Change began by becoming a “pilot school” within the district and joining the Expeditionary Learning network, ultimately becoming a mentor school. Project-based instruction for students and professional development for staff is planned based on individual strengths. Collaboration and personalization are embedded in every facet of the school’s operations-demonstrating how intentional decision making can change a school’s culture and outcomes. Today, the school outperforms district averages in student achievement and growth.