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I have become convinced that the main reason some schools can be successful with students whom other schools would write off is that the teachers and administrators have an almost infinite belief in students’ capacity to learn and grow.

Belief isn’t magic — alone it doesn’t transform anything. But belief in students gives teachers and administrators the will and drive to learn what they need to teach all children.

And success builds on success. A couple of weeks ago, I was in University Park Campus School, which was awarded Ed Trust’s Dispelling the Myth Award in 2005 and remains high-performing 10 years later.

I write about the way University Park approaches state assessment in Huffington Post this week, but I thought that here I would share what the current principal, Dan St. Louis, said about students:

“We’ve taken in tough cohorts of kids both now and in the past. But the absolute unwavering belief that we as the adults can make them functional is what drives us. We have a long history of success, and as successful professionals we are unwilling to let go of that success. We just do everything and anything we can to get everyone on board — eventually. It doesn’t all work at first. It gets really frustrating when [students] seem to want to disrespect and buck the system every day. But we have absolute faith that we will get them — someday.”

You can tell there’s just a little bit of exasperation in what he says — but that’s the exasperation a parent might feel. He doesn’t give up; he simply acknowledges the difficulties in dealing with ornery teenagers.

After all, he added: “It’s the only thing we’re here to do. If we can’t help them we should go do some other job.”

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