The Education Innovator #25
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The Education Innovator
 August 18, 2003 • Number 25
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What's inside...
City Springs Elementary School, Baltimore, Maryland
What's New
Secretary Paige participates in White House conference for faith-based and community organizations; Colorado launches website on the Colorado Opportunity Contract program; and new database available for educators.
Innovations in the News
A novel approach to school discipline, plus information on charter schools and virtual schools.

City Springs Elementary School: Fulfilling the No Child Left Behind Promise
City Springs Elementary is one of the great success stories in American education. City Springs is a neighborhood elementary school serving pre-K through, beginning this year, sixth grade students in Southeast Baltimore. After being ranked one of the worst performing schools in Baltimore in 1996, City Springs has incorporated changes in the curriculum that now have the students ranked at the top of the list.

According to the latest CTBS/TerraNova Scores, City Springs has the number-one ranking (out of 114 schools in Baltimore) in reading for first and fifth grades. All grades (1st - 5th) at City Springs ranked in the top ten schools for reading, and in the top 20 for math. City Springs' first grade also took the number one spot for math, and the fifth grade took number four.

In 1998, first grade reading scores at City Springs were in the 28th percentile. In 2003, scores rose to the 99th percentile, achieving a 71 percentile point rise. Even more noteworthy are first grade math scores at City Springs. In 1998, scores were at the 8th percentile. By 2003, scores were at the 99th percentile - an increase of 91 percentile points.

In 1996, City Springs Elementary was taken over by the Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) as part of the New Schools Initiative. BCP introduced a new curriculum based on two models of instruction.

  • Core Knowledge: a sequenced body of knowledge taught in preschool through grade eight. It includes geography, history, language arts, mathematics, science, music, and visual arts. Core Knowledge is based on informational content being taught at each level so that nothing of importance is missed, and repetitions and gaps are avoided.
  • Direct Instruction: a highly structured instructional approach, designed to accelerate the learning of at-risk students. The lesson plans are developed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on research showing that clear instruction, eliminating misinterpretations, can greatly improve and accelerate learning.
City Springs Elementary School receives Title I comprehensive school reform funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The principal, Bernice Whelchel, served as a panelist on Secretary of Education Rod Paige's Reading Leadership Academy to share how a research-based curriculum turned a school in need of improvement into a success.

To learn more about City Springs Elementary, go to: To learn more about Direct Instruction, go to For more about the Baltimore Curriculum Project, go to:

Direct Instruction has been studied in the largest education experiment ever conducted in the United States: Project Follow Through. In December 2002, the Council of Scientific Society Presidents recognized Siegfried Engelmann, one of the creators of Direct Instruction, with the award for "education research that improves student learning." Douglas Carnine, a member of the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse Technical Advisory Group, has written about the effectiveness of Direct Instruction in an article for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

Secretary of Education Rod Paige participated in a White House Conference to educate grassroots groups about the federal grants process. The event was held in Minneapolis and was sponsored by the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives; the Departments of Education, Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture; and the Agency for International Development. To read a press release about this event, see (July 29)


With the signing of the Colorado School Choice Bill by Governor Owens, the Colorado Department of Education has launched a website with information on the Colorado Opportunity Contract Pilot Program. This groundbreaking program allows eligible students to attend a nonpublic school by using an Opportunity Contract scholarship. (Aug. 5)


The Region VII Comprehensive Center at the University of Oklahoma, funded through the U.S. Department of Education, has announced "Education on the Web," a new feature of that provides an indexed database of education-related websites. The purpose of the database is to minimize time spent looking for useful information. To enable users to do more focused searches, people (not computers) have selected and indexed the information. (July 31)


Innovations in the News

School Improvement
An Anne Arundel County, MD task force of parents, teachers and educators seeking creative discipline proposals for a revised code of conduct has proposed that parents accompany misbehaving students to school for a day. Horrified students call the idea humiliating. [More-The Washington Post] (August 7)

Charter Schools
Two new charter schools will open in Greer and Travelers Rest, SC to serve special needs students. [] (August 8)

The Tuscarora Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania, with the support of eight of its nine school districts, is possibly the first in the state to offer a charter school that is run by and overseen by school districts. [More-The Lewistown Sentinel] (August 8)

Smithson Craighead Academy, opening this fall, is one of the first four charter schools authorized in Tennessee. [] (Aug 3)

Many New York City charter schools tout what they and parents consider a winning academic culture: A longer school day and year, daily calls to parents, school uniforms, and unusual philosophies that range from one school's "tough love" rules to another's liberal policy where students call teachers by their first names. [More-NY] (August 2)

Virtual Schools
A new plan to get students out of the classroom and into a virtual one may help fight Florida's overcrowding problems. Older students are already allowed to earn their high school diplomas online, but now the state is opening the door for younger children. [] (August 6)

There is a new charter school coming to Miami Valley, OH, and this school does not come with a building. [] (August 5)


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Last Modified: 04/26/2011