I've spent nearly five years reporting and writing a book on Downtown College Prep, a San Jose charter high school that recruits students who have done poorly in middle school and prepares them for college. Ninety percent of students are Latino, 61 percent qualify for a free lunch and 38 percent are classified as English learners; half their parents have an elementary education and an additional third didn't get past high school....
Effective schools make student achievement the school's top priority. The principal and teachers define plans to improve teaching and set measurable goals for exceeding API targets.
At these schools, reading, writing and math curricula are designed to teach the state's academic standards; teaching is consistent within grades and from grade to grade. Teachers don't close the classroom door and do their own thing.
Principals manage instructional improvement with district support. High-scoring schools tend to be in districts that set clear expectations and evaluate principals based on student achievement.
At high-scoring schools, principals and teachers use data on student performance to fine-tune teaching, target help to students who are falling behind and identify teachers who need to improve....
But the high-fliers don't spend more money than schools with similar students and much weaker results, points out (Stanford Researcher) Kirst. ``These are not high-spending schools by national or state standards.''
Parent involvement programs, strong discipline policies and collaboration and training opportunities for teachers had some benefit, but not nearly the impact of prioritizing achievement, implementing a coherent, standards-based curriculum, using data to improve teaching and providing adequate teaching resources.
Truth to power.