Press Release

Public schools from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and New York are proving that low-income and minority students achieve at high levels when taught at high levels

WASHINGTON (November 9, 2009) – On Thursday, November 12, The Education Trust will present the seventh annual Dispelling the Myth Awards to four outstanding schools from across the country that are educating low-income and minority students to high academic levels.

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

This year’s Dispelling the Myth Award recipients are:

“These educators will be the first to tell you that their work isn’t easy, nor is it ever done. But their successes provide both inspiration and information about what works to make schools powerful engines for improving the lives of their students,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust. “The Dispelling the Myth Award winners remind us that low-income students and students of color can achieve at high levels and that schools can make an enormous difference in the lives of all young people and thus in the country’s future. ”

These schools challenge the insidious belief that student achievement has more to do with who the students are than how and what they are taught. Each award-winning school is different, yet their success stories have common themes—high expectations, rigorous curricula, high-quality instruction, and regular tracking of student progress. The result: Virtually all students attending these schools meet or exceed state standards.

The Dispelling the Myth awardees will be honored for their important work during the 20th annual Education Trust National Conference. Themed “When the Going Gets Tough: Smart Choices and Bold Action to Raise Achievement and Close Gaps,” the conference convenes educators from across the country to discuss effective strategies for closing the gaps in achievement and opportunity that persist in our nation’s K-12 schools. Among the featured speakers at the awards dinner, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will talk about the need to ensure that all of America’s schools work for all of America’s students.

About the 2009 Dispelling the Myth Award winners:

P.S. 83 Luis Muñoz Rivera Elementary School

East Harlem, N.Y.

At Luis Muñoz Rivera Elementary School, many students arrive at the school door already behind. But staff members begin with what the kids can do and build from there. And like their students, the teachers are expected to learn and grow. Balancing collaboration and supervision, Principal Frances Castillo has created what one teacher calls “one big family,” resulting in steadily increasing student achievement. In 2006, 67 percent of students at P.S. 83 met state English Language Arts standards, but by 2009, virtually all students met those standards.

Parks Middle School


Plywood covers windows on hundreds of foreclosed homes in the neighborhood surrounding Parks Middle School. Identified by the state as being “in need of improvement” for seven consecutive years, the school used to be just as forlorn as the neighborhood is today. But Parks has revived under the leadership of Principal Christopher Waller. In 2006, only 44 percent of the school’s African-American sixth-graders met state math standards; this year 88 percent met them.

North Godwin Elementary School

Wyoming, Mich.

Like most of Michigan, Grand Rapids has been hit hard by the recession and suffered a further blow in 2009 when the local General Motors stamping plant shut down. But just down the street from the plant, North Godwin Elementary School keeps its students’ options open by helping almost all of them meet or exceed state standards—even those whose first language is not English. Teacher selection, induction, and evaluation are driving the school’s improvement.

George Hall Elementary School

Mobile, Ala.

George Hall Elementary School is located in one of the poorest parts of Mobile. In 2004, when Mobile Public Schools ordered George Hall to reorganize and restaff, less than half of the school’s fourth-graders were reading or doing math on grade level. Terri Tomlinson, the new district-appointed principal, spent her first summer at the school clearing the building of debris. Even before she began work, she says, “I knew achievement wouldn’t be a problem.” Today, George Hall is one of the highest performing elementary schools in Alabama, with 95 percent of students meeting state standards in reading and mathematics.

For more information, contact Lauren Stephens, 202/293-1217 x373