NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 3, 2004

Megan Farnsworth's new book, "Getting Results: High-Performing, Low-Income Schools in Maryland," demonstrates that great education is still possible in public education, according to Christopher B. Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

"Getting Results," describes 12 high-performing, high-poverty schools in Maryland. These schools defy the odds and produce results for their students:

  • More than three-quarters of fourth-grade students at Thomas Johnson Elementary in Baltimore performed at proficient or advanced levels in math on the latest Maryland School Assessment, compared with less than half throughout the rest of the city.
  • Reading scores are even better -- 90 percent of the low-income students performed at a proficient or advanced level, compared with 60 percent citywide.

What accounts for this high performance at Thomas Johnson Elementary?

When reading proficiency lagged in past years, the school augmented its reading curriculum. Now, students will typically spend up to 2 hours a day reading. The school also participates in the "100 Book Challenge," based in Philadelphia, which encourages students to read 100 books every quarter.

Lessons learned are simple, yet significant, says Farnsworth:

  • First and most obvious, using student achievement data is critical; at Thomas Johnson Elementary, a goal-orientation toward reading achievement allows for a positive, productive atmosphere.
  • Second, quality teachers are important; at many of the schools highlighted in "Getting Results," junior teachers are matched with veteran mentors to help them with lesson plans and classroom management.

Perhaps the most critical, though, is parental and community involvement. At Thomas Johnson Elementary, parents must sign their children's reading sheets and local community organizations pitch in to provide opportunities for out-of-school tutoring and homework help, says Farnsworth.

Source: Christopher B. Summers, "Simple Yet Significant Lessons." Maryland Public Policy Institute, November 14, 2004.


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