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Broad Acres Portrait

The other day, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote a nice profile of Broad Acres Elementary School, in Silver Spring, Md., a school that has made a strong turnaround academically, despite many challenges. A good number of the school’s students are in “survival mode,” the principal says. Many of those students are newly arrived immigrants, who have made harrowing treks to get to the United States.

One of the strengths of the story is that the writer presents readers with what I would describe as an organic picture of a school. By that I mean that in describing Broad Acres, and how far it has come, readers are taken from the principal’s office to the classroom to the surrounding community, and shown how the various parts work together in influencing a school’s culture and its performance. In the case of this particular school, located north of Washington, the picture is one of school and district administrators, teachers (and their union) and parents learning to cooperate in the hopes of moving students forward.

The article lays out some of the likely factors behind Broad Acres’ gains, such as teachers putting in extra hours for extra pay, part of an agreement between the district, the school, and the union. The school has also expanded after-school activities, carved out time for teachers to mentor each other and discuss lessons, and taken other steps.

Part of Fisher’s point is to make a comparison between the school-improvement efforts at Broad Acres, which seem relatively harmonious, and those being pushed (and being met with strong resistance by the union) by D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The columnist is planning to flesh out that comparison on Sunday, when he says he will look at a D.C. school with a comparable population to Broad Acres.

For a broader look at some of the school-improvement efforts undertaken across Montgomery County, check out my former colleague Lynn Olson's story from last year.

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