2011 Breakthrough Schools
Amityville Memorial High School
Scott Andrews, Principal
2004 marks the beginning of the turnaround of this grade 10-12 high school of 670 students, which had been identified by New York State as a school "in need of improvement." As the new principal, Andrews put everything on the table for review and modification-from raising student achievement for the 86 percent minority population to improving communication and relationships to attending to the neglected physical plant. By dispelling the notion that students should be afraid of the administrators, supporting positive relationships between teachers and students, and giving students needed school supplies so as not to interrupt their education, Amityville is now not only a school "in good standing," but through a continuous improvement model, maintains its progress each year.
Columbus Unified High School
Steven R. Jameson, Principal
The Columbus Unified High School Site Council expects every student to receive the tools and supports necessary to achieve a high school diploma. This isolated, rural southeast Kansas community is fierce in its loyalty to the school. The 358 students come from an over 400-square-mile attendance area: many riding a bus for an hour each way to get to school. While poverty (45 percent) and unemployment (25 percent) are widespread in the community, they do not dampen the school's learning environment. Last year, 97.8 percent of the four-year cohort of students-including special education students who compose 12 percent of the enrollment-graduated.
Robert M. Finley Middle School
Glen Cove, NY
Anael Alston, Principal
The entire Glen Cove community has embraced its middle school. Everyone from the mayor to small business owners to clergy and parents, teachers, and students alike feel that this school is important and successful. The school is a microcosm of America that works hard to celebrate its diversity and prevent any student from feeling disenfranchised. With almost half of the 652 students considered economically in need, gaps in student achievement have decreased significantly just as all student achievement has improved over the last five years. This improvement is attributed to targeted professional development that has focused on differentiated, hands-on classroom instruction.
Franklin Middle School
Angela Smith, Principal
After undergoing years of instability, Franklin Middle School found its footing several years ago and has flourished under the leadership of its current principal. The staff and community have learned to work as a cohesive unit, mastering the art and science of blending a diverse 558 student body of 52 percent economically disadvantaged, 18 percent special education, and 62 percent minority students into a cohesive, caring family. Franklin Middle School strives each day to meet its primary goal: to be an exemplary school in the areas of academic achievement, developmental responsiveness, and social equity.
Haymon-Morris Middle School
Sheila Kahrs, Principal
Opening in 2005 as a new school in a rural area northeast of Atlanta, this middle school serves 760 students in grades 6-8. With more than 50 percent of the population qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, the staff found many of the students in need of additional assistance. Together, the principal and staff created a school that understands the needs of its students and where the adults believe that all students can succeed. Today, numerous strategies and opportunities are in place to support those in need and to help all students grow in a highly personalized, respectful environment.
North Brunswick High School
Sheila Grady, Principal
This school in rural southeastern North Carolina has a diverse student population of more than 800 students, including nearly 13 percent who receive special education services and 57 percent who are considered economically disadvantaged based on free and reduced-price lunch eligibility. During the 2006-2007 school year, North Brunswick was designated as a "priority school" by the state because only 48 percent of the students were proficient on required exams. However, by expanding instructional leadership throughout the building, creating professional learning communities, and targeting student interventions, the school was able to dramatically close gaps and improve achievement and graduation rates. The school's efforts resulted in an 85 percent proficiency rate in 2010.
M.O. Ramay Junior High School
Matt S. Saferite, Principal
Ramay Junior High School is a grade 8-9 school of 592 students. Students come to Ramay from multiple community middle schools and join with students from the district's other junior high school into one high school. More than 50 percent of the students come from low-income homes and nearly 15 percent of the students receive special education services. The challenges inherent in this structure necessitate a high degree of collaboration as well as significant attention to the needs of every student. In this setting, for academic growth to be demonstrated, instruction must and does begin before the students reach the building.
Smokey Road Middle School
Laurie Barron, Principal
Seven years ago, a new principal at Smokey Road took on the challenge of turning around this underachieving grade 6-8 middle school located in suburban Atlanta. Overcoming obstacles-including a skeptical staff, an unresponsive community, and a challenging student body-was the first order of business. Through collaboration around a common philosophy, the progress since that time has been remarkable. With an enrollment of 840 (60 percent economically disadvantaged and 15 percent special education), the seven-year trend (2003-2010) for academic achievement demonstrates improvement in all subgroups. The school has achieved AYP status for five consecutive years and qualifies as a Title I Distinguished School.
B.F. Terry High School
Vera Wehring, Principal
In the words of one of the school's coaches, "We have education by the tail in this building and we're proud!" This is an apt way to look at B.F. Terry's journey over the last four years. While the change in academic achievement is proudly mounted outside the building on a sign that proclaims B.F. Terry High School, a "Texas School of Distinction," it's the change in attitude inside of the school that is most striking. Six out of ten of the school's 1,654 students live in poverty in this rural/suburban community southwest of Houston. Four years ago, everyone blamed everyone else for poor performance; today, Ranger Pride rules!
Worcester Technical High School
Sheila M. Harrity, Principal
Worcester Technical High School, a presence in Worcester for more than 100 years, describes its mission as educating and preparing students, academically and technically, to meet the challenges of a global society. This grade 9-12 school enrolls 1,400 students in 24 technical programs housed within four small learning communities. Working with a population that is 65 percent economically disadvantaged and 21 percent special education, Worcester Technical made AYP four years in a row, increased graduation rates and decreased the dropout rate, while adding honors and AP classes. In August 2006, Worcester Vocational High School moved from the original buildings to a new $90-million facility and became Worcester Technical High School, now the highest-performing high school in the district.