It?s true that, throughout Arizona and the southwest, the odds are against high achievement in schools with a mostly Latino, mostly poor student enrollment. And, indeed, most schools with such demographics do have hard time. But some such schools ?beat the odds? and achieve consistently high results or show steady gains.
Why do these schools succeed where others fail? What is the DNA of a successful ?beat-the-odds? school? And can the components of success be replicated elsewhere, in schools which so far have fallen victim to the odds?
Using the inspiration ? and the methodology ? of business guru, Jim Collins, author of the best-selling book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don?t, we found 12 elementary and middle schools in Arizona ? schools whose students are mostly Latino and mostly poor ? that are ?beating the odds? on reading and math scores. And, as Collins did with successful companies, we compared them with similar schools ? also with students who are mostly Latino and poor, sometimes even in the same school district ?
that are performing poorly.
Our comparisons yielded many insights, a number of them contrary to conventional wisdom, but one key result is the unearthing
of six elements of success, which we preview in this introductory section.
We also found that these elements of success translate into broader messages for education policy and strategy.
We found that successful schools do things very differently than unsuccessful schools. The six keys to success were usually present in the beat-the-odds schools but not in the comparison schools.
We found that the things that successful schools do are common practices for any effective organization. This is not to say it?s easy to adopt and maintain these practices. But leaps in performance are neither miraculous nor accidental. They are the result of clear direction and hard work.
And finally, we found that the magic is within the school itself. Successful schools focus on improving the things they actually can control that will make a big difference in student achievement. In focusing on internal improvements, these schools neither looked to external factors such as new policies or new requirements as ?magic bullets,? nor blamed factors such as demographics and economic status of the student population.
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