Six principles are key to student success.

Author Alan M. Blankstein offers six principles that are key to student success.

On Jan. 28, a group of inspiring educators from four diverse school districts across the country came together to take part in a live webcast panel discussion—the first in a 12-part series—to share their views and experiences on how they have turned their underperforming schools around, and the tools they used to succeed.

It’s what I’ve coined as “Failure Is Not an Option,” and for the past several years I’ve been working with these schools and others like them from coast to coast to focus on student success at every level. The program outlines six principles to guide student achievement. (Click here for more about those six principles.)

The webcast connected leaders, practitioners, and innovators within the education community not only here in the U.S., but from around the world to showcase real tangible frameworks for student success in our public schools. The panelists openly shared their own school success stories after implementing the “Failure Is Not an Option” program.

In the Pottstown School District of Pennsylvania, all seven schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets in 2009. This is the first time in district history for this achievement, and Reed Lindley, assistant superintendent, attributes it to the change he’s been able to make in school culture.

Because of the changes he’s implemented, and the way his teachers have embraced the program, Pottstown’s Lincoln Elementary saw close to 30 percent improvements in their students’ math and reading skills.

Even more impressive, Pottstown Middle School saw a 78 percent drop in disruptive classroom behavior, measured by the amount of time-outs between 2008 and 2009. And they’re consistently improving the district’s graduation rate. What was 75 percent in 2006 is now up to 84 percent in 2008.

Simply put, Lindley and his team of educators found a way to help their students connect with the subjects at hand, in turn helping them to succeed in the classroom.

In the Wichita Public School System, Lettishia Freund, a teacher at Payne Elementary School, reported that in 2007-08 school year her school was the lowest performing in the district when it came to reading and math.

After implementing the “Failure Is Not an Option” framework, teachers at her school were able to work together to make data-driven decisions in both subjects and collaborate on best practices for real results.

Freund and her colleagues saw a gain of 10.8 points in math and 14.3 in English during the first year. At the end of the second year, data showed an impressive gain of 17.6 points in math. This has not only helped the students’ success rate but has reinforced the teachers’ confidence in their teaching practices.