DTM: Jack Britt High School
Recognized as a Dispelling the Myth school in 2010, Jack Britt High School continues to be a leader in North Carolina.
Jack Britt, a comprehensive high school of almost 2,000 students, graduates more than 90 percent of its students — including its white, African American, Hispanic, and low-income students — in a state that graduates only 80 percent of its students.
But graduation rates are only part of the data story. Jack Britt’s students are achieving at rates that have earned it the state’s highest designation as an “Honor School of Excellence.”
North Carolina’s students take end-of-course exams that measure how much they have learned in a variety of courses. In each of the mandated tests, more of Jack Britt’s students demonstrate that they have met the standards than most other schools in the state. Taking Algebra I as an example, 93 percent of Jack Britt’s students — and 91 percent of its African American students — passed in 2012, compared with 79 percent of students statewide — 55 percent of African American students statewide.
In other words, where the state has enormous and discouraging achievement gaps, Jack Britt High School has gaps that are dwindling toward non-existence.
No one at Jack Britt claims that the school doesn’t have room to improve. But the fact that Jack Britt does what some say is impossible — produce equal outcomes for white, black, Latino, and low-income students — makes it worth taking note of how the faculty and staff at the school approach their work.
Jack Britt High School, named after a long-serving superintendent, was built in 2000 to accommodate the growing population of Fayetteville, near Fort Bragg.
Conrad Lopes, who had been principal of Fayetteville’s Seventy-First High School, was asked to open the new school. Lopes says he looked not only for those teachers who knew their content but for those who were committed to ensuring that students learn it.
One of the math teachers he hired was Denise Garison, who had been teaching math at Seventy-First. “Denise Garison had scores that were unbelievable,” Lopes says, and that fact caused some discomfort among other teachers. For example, he says, one teacher told Lopes that if he had had honors classes like Garison, he too would have high scores. “I told him, she has no honors classes.”
The fact that Garison’s regular-level students were performing at the same rate as honors students not only made Lopes want to hire her as a teacher at the new school but to develop her as an administrator, and she eventually became one of his assistant principals. When Lopes retired in 2009, Garison became principal. She says she has worked to build on the legacy Lopes built, and during her tenure both the graduation rates and achievement rates have — incrementally but steadily — improved.
More About Jack Britt
- Getting It Done: Leading Academic Success in Unexpected Schools features Denise Garison and Conrad Lopes, principal and former principal of Jack Britt High School.
- A Huffington Post article by Karin Chenoweth profiles Jack Britt High School.
- School website
- District website
- Great Schools profile
- State Report Card
- State graduation rate data
- More information about academic achievement in North Carolina