Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – This week, the Education Trust will honor five schools from across the country that have had exceptional success in educating low-income students and students of color to high academic levels. The schools will receive the 2006 Dispelling the Myth awards at a ceremony and dinner that will feature remarks from U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

The awards ceremony, scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Grand Hyatt hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., is part of the Education’s Trust’s 17th National Conference on closing the achievement gap. The theme of this year’s conference is “Anatomy of Success: Real Strategies for Closing Gaps and Raising Achievement.”  Participants will examine proven strategies and practices that produce higher achievement levels, from pre-kindergarten all the way through college.

“These schools provide compelling evidence, once again, that when we teach students to high levels and focus on closing achievement gaps, students succeed,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust. “These schools are a testament to the power of committed educators to transform the lives of children who too often get less than their fair share of what public education has to offer.

“We owe these educators a debt of gratitude,” Haycock said.

This year’s recipients are Capitol View Elementary School in Atlanta; East Millsboro Elementary in Millsboro, Del.; Imperial High School in Imperial Valley, Calif.;  M. Hall Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia; and Port Chester Middle School in Port Chester, N.Y.

The Dispelling the Myth program, now in its fourth year, honors high-performing and gap-closing schools from around the nation that serve large populations of low-income students or students of color. Schools are recognized for making significant strides in narrowing gaps in academic achievement among students, posting achievement that significantly exceeds state averages, or improving student performance at a rapid pace.

While there is no single “silver bullet” strategy employed by all successful schools, several common themes emerge from the practices of the schools receiving the 2006 Dispelling the Myth awards. Among them: having high expectations for all students; analyzing student data to track progress, identify individual student needs and improve instruction; providing a rich curriculum that is aligned to state standards; and using purposeful professional development to improve teachers’ skills.

Here are more details on each of the award-winning schools:

Capitol View Elementary School, Atlanta Public Schools, GA

Almost all of Capitol View Elementary School’s 250 or so students are African American and 88 percent meet the requirements for the federal free and reduced-price meal program. Capitol View has been one of the top-performing schools in the state for years.  In 2006, 100 percent of all students met state standards in math, reading and English language arts – and also in social studies and science.

East Millsboro Elementary, Indian River School District, Millsboro, DE

Located in a rural area with many chicken-processing plants, East Millsboro Elementary School enrolls about 700 students, more than half of whom qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Thirty percent of East Millsboro’s students are African American and more than 10 percent are Latino, part of a fast-growing Latino community. East Millsboro consistently posts some of the highest proficiency rates in the state – more than 95 percent of East Millsboro students meet state reading and math standards.

Imperial High School, Imperial Unified School District, Imperial Valley, CA

Imperial High school is just a few miles from the Mexican border. Seventy percent of its students are Latino, many of whom are English language learners. Just seven years ago the school was considered low-performing. After years of work identifying students who need help and support, matching instruction to standards, and encouraging students to think beyond high school graduation, Imperial is now considered a California Distinguished School. In the California accountability index, 800 is considered the magic number. Imperial is quickly approaching that with an index score of 785, up from 612 in 2001.

 M. Hall Stanton Elementary School, School District of Philadelphia, PA

In 1993, Stanton was immortalized in an Academy Award-winning documentary as a symbol of urban educational dysfunction. Today the school, which sits in economically devastated North Philadelphia, stands as a symbol of urban educational promise. In just one year, Stanton went from having 13 percent of fifth-graders meeting state reading standards to 67 percent—such a dramatic increase that the district retested the children to make sure there was no mistake. The next three years have seen Stanton solidifying and improving its reading proficiency rates. Not only that, but Stanton rocketed forward in math proficiency rates, going from 19 percent of fifth-graders proficient in math in 2003 to 83 percent in 2006.

Port Chester Middle School, Port Chester Public Schools, Port Chester, NY

A working-class enclave in New York’s wealthy Westchester County, Port Chester’s middle school for years had a long tradition of low academic performance and weak discipline. Today, however, it is a bustling and purposeful school, and its students — mostly Latino and mostly poor — meet state standards at a higher rate than the rest of Westchester County. The school fulfills the promise of middle school by using teams, interdisciplinary curricula, and an intense focus on students’ needs – without sacrificing academic rigor.

“These schools refute the damaging and misguided belief that the neighborhoods students come from or how much money their parents make somehow has more to do with their ability to learn than the quality of education that they receive,” Haycock said.  “The schools we are honoring challenge stereotypes.”

“They serve as a beacon of hope at a time when many are skeptical about the power of public education,” Haycock said. “These schools should inspire us and challenge all of us to realize the potential in our public schools.”