ELEMENTARY AND THE
Daniel Webster Elementary School sits high atop San Francisco's Potrero Hill, commanding a beautiful view of the bay. In 1991, ABC news anchor Peter Jennings celebrated Daniel Webster's success on " World News Tonight." He introduced the segment saying that the theme of the evening's broadcast was "expectations," and then continued: "Nowhere in America are expectations for success lower than they are at some of the country's poorest inner-city schools." The broadcast then switched to the on-site reporter, who said, "Statistics would predict that the kids who attend Daniel Webster Elementary School are at-risk of falling way behind grade-level, or becoming early dropouts. But statistics stop at the gate of this school. This is an Accelerated School, where they have eliminated repetition and demoralizing drill." The school succeeds because "they treat all students and their parents as though they are gifted, building on student strengths." And then, in what sounded much like the dialogue at a Deming seminar, the reporter added: "Crucial to their success is unity of purpose. Every day, there are meetings with the principal, parents, and teachers."
The school's commanding location high on Potrero Hill symbolizes in a way its recent high achievement. Of the 72 elementary schools in the San Francisco system, Daniel Webster Elementary showed the greatest gains in language arts during the 1990-91 school year. It was a close second in mathematics achievement. In the last two years, it has gone from being ranked 69th among the district's schools to a far more respectable 23rd. The average increase across all five grades in mathematics was 19 percentile points, with all grades performing above grade level. A closer look at this school reveals some good reasons why this upward trajectory should continue.