Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools

Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools

Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools

Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools


Is it possible for high-poverty schools to be high achieving? Of course it is! Real schools with students living in poverty do post high levels of student achievement. Learn what these schools do to help students succeed--and how you and your school can adopt the same practices--no matter what socio-economic climate students live in.

Lessons learned and practical advice from seven of these high-performing/high-poverty (HP/HP) schools, along with hundreds of others that have been the subject of intensive research, are the focus of this book. Authors William Parrett and Kathleen Budge have synthesized the research, studied the schools in depth, and show you critical components that set these institutions apart from their struggling peers.

After setting the context by examining poverty and its stunning effects on students, the authors then zero in on what HP/HP schools stopped doing or eliminated and what they started doing or improved on in three key areas of performance:

• Building leadership capacity;

• Fostering a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment; and;

• Focusing on student, professional, and system learning.;

Principals, teacher-leaders, and district leaders can benefit from the real-world examples and practical guidelines, all based on research and experience. Rather than suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach, the authors acknowledge the unique context of individual schools and urge readers to engage in self-assessment, reflection, and coordinated action to learn together and lead together, with rubrics and planning templates provided to guide the process. The reality is that any school willing to refocus its efforts can become a high-performing school.


Early in my career as a school administrator, I was standing in front of the faculty in an after-school staff meeting to present data about the achievement of our students. I was working the room to engender a dialogue about what we were going to do about the gaps in the numbers. The numbers, frankly, suggested we weren’t serving many of our students very well. This was the late 1980s and the education field was embarking on the era of standards, just post–Nation at Risk, and beginning to incorporate data on student performance in conversations about improvement. Our school, while facing circumstances nowhere near as difficult as many of the schools chronicled in this volume, worked with a student population that was among the poorest and most racially and linguistically diverse in our small city district.

As I stood at the overhead projector and began to present the data on student achievement, some hands started to go up in the back of the meeting room. The questions went something like this (and I’m paraphrasing to condense the commentary): “I know many of our kids struggle, but they come to school way behind other kids. How can you expect us to teach those kids to the same level as kids who have two parents, get breakfast every morning, and have adequate support to get their homework done every night? We just can’t do it all!” While I’m sparing you a lengthier diatribe, this was the tenor of many comments from a concentrated group of faculty members. This group, despite stating mainly good intentions for trying to do the right thing for our students, just couldn’t get past the difficult circumstances and learning needs . . .

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