The Education Innovator #6
Volume IV
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The Education Innovator
 April 13, 2006 • Number 6
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An Achievable Dream Academy, Newport News, Virginia
What's New
Innovations in the News

Newport News Magnet School Makes All Dreams Achievable for its Students
What does it take to "flip the switch" in a child, to initiate ambition, discipline, and responsibility? How can a child from a disadvantaged background with little tradition of academic achievement transform into a student who is on track to success in postsecondary education and the workforce? For Virginia businessman, Walter Segaloff, the answer began with tennis and an "achievable dream."

In the early 1990s, Mr. Segaloff, then owner of a chain of retail shops, created a summer program in Newport News, Virginia, for local children who were looking for a worthwhile place to spend their time when school was not in session. The program offered 100 low-income fourth grade children tutoring in academic subjects and a chance to learn how to play tennis. Mr. Segaloff believed that through tennis, children could learn not only an athletic sport, but also could develop character, discipline, critical thinking, and stress management skills. Mr. Segaloff notes, "I was looking for a hook for my program. I wanted something that would support character development. In tennis, there is the shaking of hands, rules, regulations. It's a lady's sport - a gentleman's sport." After witnessing the positive effect that the tutoring and tennis instruction had on the children, Mr. Segaloff decided to expand the program to give low-income students who were at risk of education failure a chance to succeed. In 1994, Mr. Segaloff partnered with community members, local businesses, Newport News Public Schools, and the City of Newport News to create An Achievable Dream Academy, a public magnet school that stresses the social, academic, and moral aspects of education.

An Achievable Dream opened with the values of the original tennis program, instilling discipline, respect, and sportsmanship in the 400 third through fifth grade students who initially enrolled. Today, the school serves 300 students in kindergarten through second grade through a preparatory program, 500 students in third through eighth grade, and 175 students in ninth through twelfth grade through a pilot program at a comprehensive public high school. All together, the Achievable Dream student population is 96 percent African American, two percent Caucasian, one percent Hispanic, and one percent Asian. Ninety-seven percent of the students qualify for the federal free or reduced price school meals program, and over 80 percent come from single-parent households. The Achievable Dream mission is to provide students, who are affectionately called "dreamers," with a challenging learning environment in which they may develop into productive citizens.

The school offers students a rigorous curriculum aligned with state standards in core subjects such as language arts, reading, mathematics, science, history, and the arts. Students attend classes for 8 ½ hours per day, compared to the standard 6 ¼ hours per day that most other schools in the district require. Instead of the traditional 180-day academic year, students at An Achievable Dream attend school for approximately 210 days, including three mandatory ten-day intercessions where students participate in enrichment or re-teaching activities. Students who need additional academic help attend 26 Saturday school sessions.

At every grade level, students are required to attend classes dedicated to proper etiquette and elocution. In classrooms stocked with tables, linens, and silverware, students learn how to use different utensils at a banquet, fold napkins, and formally introduce themselves to others. "Speaking Green," a class designed by An Achievable Dream, teaches students proper public speaking skills. Students are taught that it is appropriate to speak the language of their neighborhood in casual situations, but in the business world, standard English should be used. Thus, speaking "green" correlates with the color of U.S. currency, and students are taught that a fulfilling, successful career and earning power are dependent upon receiving a high-quality education.

Across the curriculum there is an emphasis on character education. Values such as honesty, justice, courage, responsibility, and respect are discussed and exercised in all classes. Throughout the hallways, blue banners display positive statements such as "I am intelligent and gifted," "I must be self-disciplined," and "I can read more." Before the school day begins, every student shakes hands with an administrator, as well as volunteer soldiers from nearby Fort Eustis Army Base and sheriff's deputies from the Newport News Sheriff's Department. After all students have been greeted, they funnel into the auditorium for a morning assembly where they chant messages such as "Achievable Dream cares about me," and "I will remain drug-free." These messages are designed to energize students and keep them focused on making the best possible choices to be successful in school and in life.

Once administrators have delivered their morning messages, volunteer soldiers and deputies inspect the students' school uniforms. Students earn merit points for positive behavior and appropriate attire, which can be used to buy supplies in the school's store or to attend special field trips, enrichment activities, and other events. Students are taught how to balance personal "checkbooks" in which they log their merit points. Teachers relate these checkbooks to lessons in mathematics classes and stress to students that "merit management" is akin to "money management" issues they will experience later in life.

An active parent program at An Achievable Dream mobilizes families to guide and support their children. Parents pledge to take on responsibilities such as checking daily homework assignments and volunteering at the school. Family-focused evening classes offer parents the opportunity to study GED preparation, parenting, financial management, and computer repair. Through a partnership with Riverside Health System, An Achievable Dream also offers families a health clinic inside the school.

In line with the original Achievable Dream program, all students are required to enroll in tennis instruction - the only sport offered at the school. While learning how to backswing on the court, students practice the values they learn in their classrooms, values that their teachers have called the SAME model, or a Social, Academic, and Moral Education.

Based on recent studies and students' performance on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, the Achievable Dream model is helping to raise academic achievement. A matched pair study conducted by the College of William and Mary compared outcomes for eighth grade Achievable Dream students with eighth grade students who would have qualified for the program had they chosen to apply. According to the study, Achievable Dream students posted larger gains on the SOL tests than their counterparts. During the 2002-2003 academic year, for example, 81 percent of Achievable Dream students passed the reading/language arts portion of the exam, as compared to 38 percent of students in the matched cohort. On the mathematics section of the exam, 84 percent of Achievable Dream students passed, as compared to 67 percent of matched students. Gains were more pronounced on the writing exam. Ninety-four percent of "dreamers" reached or surpassed proficiency levels, whereas 57 percent of matched students attained that level of performance.

According to 2005 results from the Standards of Learning tests, students continue to improve. For example, on the reading/language arts portion of the exam, 87 percent of Achievable Dream eighth graders met or exceeded the proficiency target. On the mathematics portion, 89 percent of eighth graders met or exceeded the target. And at the elementary level, 77 and 67 percent of fifth grade students met or exceeded proficiency targets in reading/language arts and mathematics, respectively. Overall, 90 percent of the first four graduating classes from An Achievable Dream have enrolled in college, and ten percent have joined the military.

The hard work of students and teachers at An Achievable Dream has been recognized by outside organizations since the school's creation. In 1995, a year after An Achievable Dream opened, Business Week and McGraw-Hill Educational Publishers recognized it as a "Break the Mold School." Four years later, the National Association of Character Education Programs named An Achievable Dream a "National School of Character," and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's College of Human Resources and Education gave the school an "Excellence in Education" award. The National Conference of Community and Justice honored the school with a "Distinguished Merit Citation Award" for humanitarian leadership in 2002, and in 2003 Mutual of America gave the school its "Community Partnership Award."

Based on its success with "flipping the switch" of ambition and performance for its elementary and middle school students, An Achievable Dream will open a new middle school and a full high school in August 2007. The high school will continue the traditions of character education, high expectations for student performance, and rigorous coursework that began in the flagship school. In partnership with Old Dominion University, an Urban Teacher Training Center will use the new middle and high schools as laboratory and teacher training sites.

The Office of Innovation and Improvement supports magnet schools like An Achievable Dream through its Magnet Schools Assistance Program.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative; however, it does not have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation and may not be replicable under differing conditions.


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

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings spoke at the school choice forum at the Greater Allen Cathedral in Jamaica (NY). She discussed public school choice options and tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary noted the initial success of federally funded opportunity scholarships in Washington, DC, as well as the America's Opportunity Scholarships for Kids initiative proposed by President Bush. (Apr. 5)

Secretary Spellings praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R. 609, the College Access and Opportunity Act of 2006, and the companion McMorris American Competitiveness Amendment. Secretary Spellings urged both houses of Congress to "act swiftly and comprehensively to prepare our students and schools for the demands of the 21st century." (Mar. 30)

Secretary Spellings announced that a total of $30 million has been awarded for the 2006-2007 academic year to support the implementation of eight Striving Readers programs across the country. Over the five-year grant period, these recipients will receive a combined total of over $142 million. The Striving Readers program focuses on middle and high schools that have large proportions of struggling readers and that are striving to meet Adequate Yearly Progress requirements in reading. The programs include a range of research-based adolescent literacy projects serving diverse populations. Independent researchers will evaluate each program. (Mar. 22)

At the Council of the Great City Schools Annual Legislative and Policy Conference, Secretary Spellings praised urban schools for raising students' academic achievement and discussed the importance of mathematics, science, and rigorous coursework in preparing American students to be globally competitive. (Mar. 20)

Secretary Spellings addressed the Intel Science Talent Search Award winners. She called on the winners to "lead the way" in helping America keep its competitive edge with other countries. Past winners of the talent search have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, Fields Medals, and National Medals of Science. (Mar. 15)

At the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers, Secretary Spellings noted, "If America is going to remain the world's innovation leader - then our students must have the skills, especially literacy and proficiency, to compete and thrive." (Mar. 14)

Secretary Spellings, as Chair of the Academic Competitiveness Council, issued a statement regarding the council's first meeting. She noted that over the next few months, the council will look at data to examine which policies are working for students and determine where taxpayers' dollars can be used more efficiently. She stated, "One of the best ways to do that is to align programs with the principles of NCLB, focusing on accountability, assessment, scientifically- based research, local control, and results for students." (Mar. 6)

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded new five-year contracts to ten Regional Educational Laboratories that will conduct research, development, dissemination, training, and technical assistance activities. The laboratories will be administered by the department's National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). (Mar. 28)

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will sponsor a three-and-a-half-day advanced studies seminar on the use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) database for education research and policy analysis. Faculty and advanced graduate students from colleges and universities, as well as education researchers and policy analysts with strong statistical skills from state and local educational agencies and professional associations, are welcome to attend. The seminar runs from June 20-23, and the deadline to register is May 8. (Mar. 24)

NCES has released a new study, Fifth Grade: Findings from the Fifth-Grade Follow-Up of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99. This report highlights children's gains in reading and mathematics over their first six years of school. While all children showed progress, some learning gaps persisted. Certain variables, such as poverty and the highest level of education a child's mother received, were found to be associated with reading and mathematics achievement. (Mar. 24)

Characteristics of Schools, Districts, Teachers, Principals, and School Libraries in the United States is now available through NCES. This report introduces data from the fifth administration (2003-2004) of the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). SASS is the nation's most extensive sample survey of public, private and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) elementary and secondary schools, teachers, and administrators. (Mar. 23)

A new "Finance Longitudinal Data Tool" has been added to the Education Finance Statistics Center (EDFIN) website. The website now includes two searchable data tools. The "Peer Search Tool" allows comparisons of the finances of a school district with its peers based on the latest fiscal data. The new Longitudinal Data Tool allows comparisons of fiscal and non-fiscal school district data over time from 1989-1990 to 1999-2000. (Mar. 21)

NCES has released Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2003-2004 Private School Universe Survey download files PDF (527KB). The report presents data on K-12 private schools by selected characteristics such as school size, school level, religious orientation, association membership, geographic region, community type, and program emphasis. In the fall of 2003, there were 28,384 private schools in the country, enrolling 5,122,772 students. (Mar. 16)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement

The Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRC) program grant competition is now open. The application deadline is May 15. (Apr. 13)

A technical assistance conference call to answer questions from prospective PIRC applicants is scheduled for April 18 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. No pre-registration is necessary. Please call 1-866-215-1938 a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. to participate. A technical assistance webcast is available on the PIRC website as well. (Apr. 13) (Apr. 13)

The Notice of Proposed Priority for the FY 2007 competition for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program has been published in the Federal Register. The priority requires applicants to focus on expanding their capacity to provide public school choice by using magnet schools as choice options for parents whose children attend schools that have been identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring under Title I of ESEA. There will be a 30-day comment period. (Apr. 10)

May 1 through 7 will mark National Charter Schools Week. A showcase event has been scheduled in conjunction with the Office of Innovation and Improvement as part of a national effort to highlight the contributions of charter schools. Register now; sessions are filling up. (Apr. 13)

Grant Opportunities

The Newspaper Association of America Foundation is awarding Student/Newspaper Partnership Grants that will provide seed money to help establish or revive student newspapers in schools across the country. Grants can be used to cover newspaper production and distribution costs, purchase equipment, and train advisors and newspaper staff members. Middle and high school teachers and administrators and representatives from newspapers or universities are eligible to apply. The application deadline is April 30. (Apr. 13)

The National Council for the Social Studies' Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award aims to help a social studies educator make innovative social studies instruction a reality. All full-time social studies teachers or social studies teacher educators currently engaged with K-12 students are eligible to apply. NCSS membership also is required. The application deadline is May 1. (Apr. 13)

The Horace Mann Scholarship Program for Educators is offering scholarships for public and private school educators to take college courses. Educators must be employed by a U.S. public or private school district or a U.S. public or private college or university at the time of application and at the time the scholarship is awarded. Applicants also must have a minimum of two years teaching experience. The program is not open to residents of Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York. The application deadline is May 16. (Apr. 13)

QuestBridge, an initiative from the Quest Scholars Program, is launching a College Prep Scholarship Program for High School Juniors. High school juniors who have a record of academic excellence despite facing economic challenges are eligible to apply. Over 100 scholarships will be awarded including full scholarships to summer programs, coverage of travel expenses for college visits, SAT preparation courses and materials, and new laptop computers. The application deadline is May 15. (Apr. 13)


The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University 's John F. Kennedy School of Government, in cooperation with the Council for Excellence in Government, has announced the Top 50 Government Innovations for 2006. One of the honorees is a joint project from The Teaching and Leadership Center at Florida Atlantic University and the Broward County School District (FL). The Teaching and Leadership Center receives a grant to run a Transition to Teaching program from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. (Mar. 22)

Myers Abraham Davis, a student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (MD), (see Innovator, February 9, 2006) was named one of the top ten finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. The Science Talent Search is America's oldest pre-college science contest, held by Science Service since 1942 and now sponsored by Intel. (Mar. 14)

Leadership/School Reform

A new study from the Aspen Institute and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Strong Foundation, Evolving Challenges: A Case Study to Support Leadership Transition in the Boston Public Schools, examines the successes and challenges of the Boston Public Schools' (MA) ten-year focus on instructional improvement. (Apr. 13)

Learning on the Job: When Business Takes on Public Schools, a new book by Steven F. Wilson, analyzes six education management organizations (EMOs) and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Mr. Wilson assisted in the creation of the original Massachusetts charter schools law in 1993 and then founded and became the CEO of Advantage Schools, Inc., one of the nation's first EMOs. He now consults with Edison Schools, Inc., currently the largest EMO in the country. (Spring 2006)

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) has released its fourth annual report on the implementation of NCLB. From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act, is an analysis of how the law is being implemented at the state, district, and local levels. (Mar. 28)

Raising Student Achievement

A mathematics toolkit created by The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning is filled with lesson plans, videos, and activities for students with varying degrees of proficiency in mathematics. The "Afterschool Training Toolkit" was designed for after-school programs serving students at all grade levels across the country. (Apr. 13)

Through its eight articles and ten opinion pieces, School & College: A Special Report from the Chronicle of Higher Education calls for the alignment of high school graduation standards with college entrance requirements. According to a Chronicle survey included in the report, high school teachers' assessments of their students' abilities are more positive than assessments from college professors. The Chronicle lists a number of programs with the aim of closing this gap. (Mar. 15)


The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has added to its website a "National Education Technology Standards for Students Online Technology Assessment." This assessment is designed to help teachers measure students' skills in using software and to help measure students' progress toward meeting National Education Technology standards. (Mar. 22)

The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, has launched a "Teaching Quality (TQ) Data Systems Roadmap," which is an online tool designed to produce a comprehensive and user-friendly system of information related to teachers, students, and schools. (Mar. 22)


April 2006 marks the first ever Poetry Read-a-Thon for students in grades five through eight, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. In addition to emphasizing the pleasure of reading poetry, the Read-a-Thon will facilitate the development of writing and comprehension skills. Teachers may visit an Online Poetry Classroom to find resources including lesson plans, poems, and links to other relevant websites. (Apr. 13)


Innovations in the News

The federal government has approved Delaware's education standards and student testing system. It is the second state, after South Carolina, to earn approval under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law requires each state to undergo a peer review by the U.S. Department of Education, assessment experts from other states, institutions of higher education, and the private sector. The approval was based on a review of Delaware's academic content standards, the high school system for determining what test score demonstrates that a student has met the standard, the reliability and validity of the tests, the alignment of the tests to state standards, the inclusion of students with disabilities and limited English, and the system for reporting test results to the public. The only recommendation contained in the review was for Delaware to develop "performance-level descriptors" for its science tests. [More-The News Journal] (Mar. 16)

Magnet Schools
At Multicultural Magnet School in Bridgeport (CT), students from Puerto Rico celebrate Chinese New Year with friends, and students from Costa Rica enjoy curried food supplied by Indian classmates. The school, which prides itself on making its students feel like they all have something special to share, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Multicultural offers a traditional bilingual Spanish program for young students and enrichment classes in Spanish and Portuguese for older students. The school serves 446 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. [More-The Connecticut Post] (Apr. 2)

More students and families in Beaverton (OR) will have a new educational option this fall. The International School of Beaverton is scouting for seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students. The International School will begin its first year with students in sixth through ninth grade; students in tenth grade will be added in the 2007-2008 academic year. The school will use the academic framework of the International Baccalaureate Organization, which sets curricula for international schools worldwide. [More-The Oregonian] (Mar. 21)

Three magnet schools in the San Mateo-Foster City School District (CA) have been recognized as Magnet Schools of Excellence by Magnet Schools of America. North Shoreview Montessori Music and Art School, San Mateo Park Math and Science School, and Fiesta Gardens International School will be honored this month at the 24th annual Magnet Schools of America Conference in Omaha (NE). The conference will be attended by more than 1,000 school leaders and teachers from magnet schools and districts across the country. (A full listing of all schools receiving recognition is available online.) [More-Inside Bay Area] (Mar. 20)

Raising Student Achievement/Technology
Private school students from Mount Saint Joseph Academy near Philadelphia (PA) and students from St. Joseph's Convent School in Jabalpur, India , worked together through videoconferencing software and email to create a website that matches wealthy hospitals with poor Indian hospitals in need of supplies. The project was part of a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) effort called Challenge 20/20 to encourage students to think about solving issues of global concern. [More-The Christian Science Monitor] (Mar. 22)

Among the Saturday morning regulars at The Morning Due Café in San Francisco (CA) are a group of students from Mission High School. This gathering might not seem unusual at first, but these students, along with their social studies teacher, are studying the Divine Comedy - not for class credit, but for pleasure. Mission High is composed mostly of low-income, minority students, many of whom are English language learners. Callen Taylor started the "Dante Club" at the local café to give her students "cultural currency" because she realized they had little knowledge of Greek mythology, Renaissance artists, and ancient Rome. All 12 students in the club say they are headed for college. [More-San Francisco Chronicle] (Mar. 20)

Students at Carl Hayden High School (AZ) are sometimes the first in their families to graduate from high school, but now students on the robotics team talk about becoming computer programmers, scientists, and engineers. Since 2004, the team has grown to 50 students who build robots, mentor students from 10 surrounding junior high schools, encourage students from across the district to become scientists, engineers, and physicists, and promote school activities by creating brochures and videotapes. This year, all six seniors on the team are going to college on full scholarships. [More-The Arizona Republic] (Mar.15)

The Jefferson Parish public school system (LA) has received a $20 million grant from Cisco Systems, Inc., as part of a technology-driven initiative to improve student academic achievement in Gulf Coast schools hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Eight Jefferson schools were selected based on the socio-economic status and diversity of their students. Classrooms will be supplied with high-tech equipment, and Cisco officials will assist in upgrading curriculum materials and professional development for school staff. Initially the program will serve about 5,200 students. Eventually, Cisco plans to expand to impact 20,000 students [More-The New Orleans Times-Picayune] (Mar. 15) (subscription required)

School Improvement/Facilities
The SEED Foundation, (School for Educational Evolution and Development), a nonprofit organization that opened the nation's only public boarding school in Washington, DC, is now aiming to replicate the program. The program takes poor students out of often unstable homes and places them in a rigorous, college-preparatory environment. SEED officials are seeking approval from Maryland lawmakers and Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., to create a state-financed boarding school that the SEED Foundation would manage. If approved, the school likely would be created in Baltimore and would be open to students from across Maryland. SEED officials also are looking at other possible sites, including two in California, and have plans to open a second school in Washington, DC. [More-Education Week] (Mar. 22) (subscription required)

MassDevelopment, Massachusetts' finance and development authority, recently announced that it will award financing packages worth $22.3 million to six charter schools. The schools will use the funding to acquire, build, renovate, or expand facilities, and to refinance existing debts. Agency officials attribute the recent increase in charter school transactions to the continued achievement and stability of the schools and an increased willingness by private banks to finance charter school facility projects. (MassDevelopment received a grant through the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities program in the Office of Innovation and Improvement.) [More-Boston Business Journal] (Mar. 13) (subscription required)

Teacher Quality and Development
Beginning next year, a new pay-for-performance program for Florida's teachers will link raises and bonuses directly to students' improvement on standardized tests. Advocates believe the initiative is a landmark in the movement to restructure schools because schools would face competitive pressures similar to those in the private sector. Opponents believe efforts to evaluate teachers based solely on test scores is too narrow of a measure. [More-The Washington Post] (Mar. 22) (subscription required)

The Partnership for Teacher Excellence is joining New York City's (NY) schools, the City University of New York (CUNY), and New York University (NYU) to offer teacher candidates the opportunity to work inside New York City public schools. CUNY will admit 300 applicants for undergraduate programs in mathematics and science and will train 15 master's-level students yearly in special education. The NYU Steinhardt School of Education will recruit 100 candidates for a master's program for hard-to-staff subjects. Participants at both universities must commit to teach two years in New York City. [More-Education Week] (Mar. 15) (subscription required)

Writing autobiographies, publishing poems, creating mysteries, and studying advanced literature are "par for the course" for students in Nancy Barile's classes at Revere High School (MA). Despite the fact that most of her students do not view college as an option, Ms. Barile encourages all her students to expand their educational horizons by hooking them into her writing and literature classes through creative assignments. Her dedication to students and unique teaching strategies have earned her a $2,000 award from the College Board. [More-The Christian Science Monitor] (Mar. 15)


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