Harvard School of Excellence. In 2006, Harvard was ranked among the 10 worst schools in Illinois. To turn the school around, the school hired a new principal and mostly new faculty. By the end of its first year, Harvard reduced absences by an average of five days per student. After two years, Harvard students that meet or exceed state testing standards increased by 25 percent.
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James Johnson Public School. In 2008, James Johnson Public School in Chicago teamed up with the Academy for Urban School Leadership to turn the school around. Prior to turning around, James Johnson was plagued by student disciplinary concerns, and only 40 percent of students were meeting state standards in reading, math, and science. Today, James Johnson teachers, parents, and students credit the turnaround with improving student behavior, increasing student performance, and enhancing parental engagement.
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Locke Senior High School. In 2007, Locke Senior High School in Los Angeles came under the management of Green Dot, a nonprofit charter organization. Prior to 2007, Locke sent only 5 percent of graduating seniors to four-year colleges. Today, 71 percent of Locke’s graduates have gone on to attend college. Teachers and students once described Locke as a “chaotic” environment where teachers would let students “walk out of school and … wouldn’t say anything.” The environment led to a violent school riot in 2006. Since then, Locke has decreased student suspensions involving drugs or violence from 21 percent to 5 percent, and the school has implemented small learning communities to improve performance and accountability; built strong relationships among principals, teachers, and students; and created a safe environment where students pursue academic success.
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ED’s school improvement models are somewhat controversial, especially the school turnaround model. Earlier this year, the Central Falls, R.I., school system made headlines—and turned heads—when its school board voted to fire the entire staff of its underperforming high school. Under the federal turnaround model, no more than half the teachers could be rehired. The situation was resolved when the district announced May 17 that it had reached an agreement with teachers that would avoid the need for layoffs.