Meeting the Challenge

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One of the rallying cries of standards-based education is that all students can achieve at high levels--a point proven by a number of high-performing, high-poverty schools.

Across the nation, evidence is mounting that the drive for high academic expectations, combined with good teaching and a dose of accountability, has pushed some schools with seemingly insurmountable problems--such as high student-mobility and teenage-pregnancy rates--to the top of the academic heap.

Experts point to schools like Millard Hensley Elementary School in Salyersville, Ky. Although 94 percent of its students are poor enough to qualify for federally subsidized school lunches, the school came out on top on the state's 4th grade science test last year. Or there's Carl C. Waitz Elementary School in Mission, Texas, where 100 percent of the students passed the state's reading and mathematics tests in 2000, with a population that is overwhelmingly poor and Hispanic.

According to recent studies by two Washington-based research and policy organizations, the Education Trust and the Heritage Foundation, those schools have a number of traits in common:

  • High expectations and standards-focused instruction;
  • Comprehensive testing systems to monitor student achievement;
  • Extra instruction and attention devoted to low-performing students;
  • Professional development focused on teaching the academic standards; and
  • Parent involvement that emphasizes standards and achievement.

Vol. 20, Issue 17, Page 20

Published in Print: January 11, 2001, as Meeting the Challenge
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