Press Release

WASHINGTON (November 11, 2008) -– On Thursday, November 13 in Washington, D.C., The Education Trust will present the sixth annual Dispelling the Myth awards to four schools from across the country that have been extraordinarily successful in educating low-income students and students of color to high academic levels.

The awards recognize schools for making significant strides in narrowing gaps in academic achievement among student groups, showing achievement levels that significantly exceed the averages in their states, or improving student performance at a rapid pace.

The 2008 Dispelling the Myth schools are:

While these schools don’’t offer simple answers or easy solutions to the gaps that far too often separate low-income students and student of color from their peers, several common strategies emerge from their practices. Among them are providing rich curriculum coupled with strong, focused instruction; having high expectations for all students; using data to track student progress and individual student needs; and employing purposeful professional development to improve teachers’’ skills.

“They’’re not just working harder than other schools – —they’’re working smarter,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust. ““And though their efforts are nowhere near finished, they’’ve already shattered the misguided and dangerous belief that achievement gaps are inevitable. These schools are a testament to the power of committed educators to literally transform the life chances of young people.””

The four schools will be honored during the 19th Education Trust National Conference, the annual gathering of educators dedicated to closing the gaps in achievement and attainment that persist in our nation’s schools. Participants at this year’s conference, “”It’’s Up to Us: Going the Distance to Close Gaps and Raise Achievement for All,”” will examine strategies and practices that are producing higher achievement levels for all groups of students, from pre-kindergarten through college.

“”When educators and policymakers work together to ensure that all students are well prepared for the future, change is absolutely possible,”” said Haycock. ““Dispelling the Myth schools prove that this kind of change can happen now, and offer inspiration for other schools ready take on the challenge and follow their lead.””


About the 2008 Dispelling the Myth Award Recipients

Graham Road Elementary School, Falls Church, Va.

Students in suburban Fairfax County, Va., on average, come from affluent homes, score well on the SAT, and regularly are admitted to the nation’’s top colleges and universities. However, the district averages mask large gaps: Fairfax’’s African-American and Latino students are often outperformed by students of color in the state’s inner cities. But while more than 80 percent of the students at Graham Road Elementary School qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and nearly all are non-white (primarily the children of recent immigrants), every sixth grader met or exceeded state reading standards in 2008, and 96 percent met or exceeded state math standards.

Norfork Elementary School, Norfork, Arkansas

Rural and geographically isolated, Norfork, Ark., has limited experience with a culture of academic achievement. But with 80 percent of the students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, the community does have experience with poverty. For that reason, faculty members at Norfork Elementary School say they feel a deep responsibility both to introduce their students to the outside world and to prepare them for it by making them as academically accomplished as possible. And they are getting the job done: This spring, the literacy scores of Norfork’’s sixth graders were among the highest in the state, far outperforming many wealthier schools. In 2007, all sixth graders also met the state’s new, higher math standards.

Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, Roxbury, Mass.

One student describes Roxbury Preparatory Charter School as a “small school with big minds.” This middle school was designed to take students who have been ill-served by their Boston-area elementary schools and prepare them for the most prestigious college-prep high schools in New England. By eighth grade, the proportion of African-American and Latino students at Roxbury Prep who are proficient on state standards is greater than the percentage of white students statewide. In fact, 78 percent of African-American and 100 percent of Latino students meet or exceed state math standards. Roxbury Prep is demonstrating that students who might fail in other schools – —indeed, students who were failing in elementary school – —are able to soar academically when provided with the right support.

Wells Elementary School, Steubenville, Ohio

“”Rust belt”” is not a metaphor in Steubenville, Ohio, but a brutal description of the huge assemblies of corroded metal that hug the city. As they lose income, population, and hope, many such places find achievement in their schools begin to plummet. Steubenville, however, has been improving academic performance. Today, higher percentages of students meet state reading and math standards in the district than in the state as a whole, despite serving higher percentages of students of color and students living in poverty. Within Steubenville, Wells Elementary School is the standout. In the 2007-08 school year, every single one of Wells’’ students met state reading, science, and social studies standards and all third and fourth graders met math standards.