Press Release

Public schools in Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon recognized for their outstanding efforts to educate students of color and low-income students

WASHINGTON (November 10, 2014)— The Education Trust will honor three outstanding public schools at the Twelfth Annual Dispelling the Myth Awards ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 13. These schools have shown success in educating students from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds — effectively dispelling the myth that these students’ challenges are insurmountable.

“No child’s future should be determined by her zip code or skin color,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust. “Through their hard work and diligence, the educators and staff in these schools have proven that all students can succeed when they have the right resources, committed educators, and adequate support. The Dispelling the Myth Award recipients affirm that closing gaps and boosting achievement is not only attainable but also well within reach.”

This year’s Dispelling the Myth Award recipients are:

The Dispelling the Myth Award recognizes schools with large populations of low-income students or students of color that are delivering a rich, coherent, engaging curriculum and providing individualized supports to ensure every student reaches his potential. In the process, these schools are making themselves the kinds of places where children thrive and where teachers want to teach.

The Education Trust highlights such schools as a way of honoring educators who are working tirelessly to make sure their students succeed. This year’s winners and past year’s recipients dispel the damaging myth that schools can do very little to help students overcome the barriers of poverty and discrimination.

The 2014 Dispelling the Myth awardees will be honored for this important work at The Education Trust 2014 National Conference in Baltimore. The conference, appropriately titled “Become the Change: Closing Gaps in Opportunity and Achievement,” convenes educators and advocates from all across the country who are working toward the shared goal of raising student achievement and closing opportunity gaps.

About the 2014 Dispelling the Myth Award winners:

Brimley Elementary School – Brimley, Michigan

In a small, rural district just south of Canada and down the road from a Chippewa reservation, where most of its Native American students live, Brimley Elementary School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is an example of a school that has improved even within the confines of limited budgets and a remote location. The school invests time and energy to ensure that teachers develop and share expertise about reading and math instruction through collaboration with other teachers in the school and throughout the area. Their work is paying off. Much higher percentages of Brimley’s Native American students and students from low-income families are proficient or advanced when juxtaposed against their counterparts in Michigan. In fact, in sixth-grade math, nearly half of Brimley’s Native American and low-income students meet or exceed state math standards, compared with just over a quarter of their state counterparts. Not that the school is satisfied. “There’s room for improvement,” Routhier says, as he and faculty members work on expanding their focus on science and social studies — and wish they had the money for an art teacher.

Charles R. Drew Public Charter School  – Atlanta, Georgia

Project-based learning tied directly to standards, with an integration of math, science, and the arts, is at the heart of instruction at Drew Charter School. This approach was brought to the school some years ago by Barbara Preuss, principal of the lower school (and former assistant principal of 2003 DTM winner Centennial Place Elementary School). “We were doing what Common Core standards call for before they were even developed,” Preuss says. And it’s working: 100 percent of Drew Charter’s eighth-graders met or exceeded state standards in both reading and math in 2013. Drew Charter recently added a Senior Academy, which has the goal of ensuring that every student graduates with a college acceptance in hand. “We will make sure they are all prepared to go to college and all have post-secondary options,” says head of school Don Doran.

Menlo Park Elementary School – Portland, Oregon

With 76 percent of its students meeting the qualifications for free and reduced-price meals, and about one-third considered to be English-language learners, Menlo Park Elementary has to be very deliberate about everything it does to be successful. And the school, in Portland’s David Douglas School District, is both deliberate and successful. Seventy-nine percent of Menlo Park’s fifth-graders met or exceeded state English Language Arts standards in 2013, compared with 68 percent of Oregon fifth-graders. Similarly, 76 percent of fifth-graders at Menlo Park met or exceeded state standards in math, while only 58 percent of Oregon’s fifth-graders did so. “Every student deserves an education,” says the brand-new principal, Kellie Burkhardt, a veteran of the district, echoing her predecessor, Elise Guest, who said, “We need to be purposeful and have a sense of urgency.” The school begins with its core instruction, making sure teachers have the time and wherewithal to collaborate to ensure that lessons are focused on what students need to know. Then begins a careful system of intervention for students who aren’t initially successful, which increases the levels of support to those who need it. They also try new things — for example, they brought in Rosetta Stone to help their newest English learners begin to master English conversation — and then evaluated the results carefully, tweaking the parts that didn’t work.

For more on the awards, please visit the Dispelling the Myth website.