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The Secrets of School Success

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Here's a story about a school that's doing a lot of things right. Samuel Powel School in Philadelphia has met No Child Left Behind's federal benchmarks for the past four years, and in a district where less than half of students can read on grade level by the end of third grade, 96 percent of Samuel Powel School's third graders read on grade level, says the article.

So what's its secret? The classes are small, it has a low rate of teacher and student turnover, and the parents are actively involved. The article also details an engaging reading lesson by one of the third grade teachers who doesn't just read a book to his students, but asks them questions about what they thought certain words might mean, what might happen next in the story, and how they felt about it. As a result, the students are interested in the lesson and excited to read on their own.

The article says this school's model would be difficult to replicate, and that's probably true, but I'm sure this didn't all happen overnight, nor was it simply chance that this school was able to put together such an effective model. I'm sure certain strategies were put into place to encourage such high levels of parental involvement and teacher satisfaction. And the lesson plans, which seem to be working wonders, could be implemented almost anywhere.

What do you think? What aspects of this school's model might work for other schools or districts? Which might be harder to replicate? And how might those obstacles be overcome?

2 Comments

Katie:

Great story! Powel School may have some advantages over the "typical" inner city public school, but the principal and faculty are clearly doing a number of things to promote the success of their students.

The theme that emerges from the article for me is one of "relationships and engagement". The affection and respect that teacher Joe Alberti has for his charges come through loud and clear. Looping, small school enrollment and modest class sizes can all contribute to stronger personal relationships. So can the relatively low staff and student turnover rates -- which are probably both "causes" and "effects" of positive relationships. Reading to children, even when they are old enough to read on their own, is both a literacy and a relationship strategy.

At a time when so much attention is focused on higher standards, fancy technology, longer days, tough discipline and more testing, it is refreshing to learn about a school that pays attention to the human connections that are, in so many ways, the gateway to achievement and wellbeing.

Steve Tracy
First Mile Learning
Goshen, Connecticut

Powel is not a inner city school, its a middle class school nestled between two universities and appears to have an admission policy to boot.

Oh, and there's a largish achievement gap.

See here.

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