How it’s done

On Britannica Blog, I write about Karin Chenoweth’s new book, It’s Being Done, which profiles low-income and high-minority schools that are educating students to high levels.

What these schools have in common is a dedication — shared by the principal and teachers — to improving instruction. Principals and teacher leaders analyze all the data they can get to see if students are mastering — and exceeding — the state standards. If most students are improving but a few are faltering, they use the data to help the left behind catch up. They make no excuses for failure. “They know that if their students don’t get a good education, they face the probability of a lifetime of poverty and dependence,” Chenoweth writes.

School time isn’t squandered. No more movies on Friday unless there’s a clear educational purpose. “School time is time for instruction and instruction is treated as something almost sacred.” All find ways to extend learning time, especially for struggling students.

If there’s one thing that stands out it’s the huge investment in helping teachers improve their teaching.

Teachers do not do their own thing. They meet to discuss how to solve problems, how to improve particular lessons and how to help individual students, often while students are taking “specials” such as music, art and physical education.

Improving teachers’ effectiveness is a top priority. Professional development relates directly to what teachers are doing in the classroom. Teachers have time to observe each other, adopting model lessons or providing feedback to newcomers.

Many of these successful schools leverage resources from a nearby university or business to support improvement but most have access to the same funding and grants as nearby schools that are still struggling.

Also see D-Ed Reckoning on poverty, NCLB and excuses.

In Rethinking High School, WestEd reports on five successful schools that prepare low-income students for colleges, careers and life.

About Joanne


  1. Joanne,

    I’m at a school that’s not exactly high poverty (we have about 30% free and reduced and 25% English Learners) but we have made solid growth during my three years using many of the practices referred to in your article. We have weekly collaboration focused on teaching and learning. Formative assessment drives instruction and teachers are always looking for “a better way”. We’ve just instituted peer observation and feedback to sharpen instruction. I’ve come to believe that schools can improve tremendously if they focus all their time, treasure, and talent on good teaching. Thanks for highlighting schools that are making this happen for kids.