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This report features 15 outstanding public high schools from Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Texas and Washington, DC. All were featured at the Fifth Annual Conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University in June of 2009. The Massachusetts schools had unusually high value -added test score gains on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) from 8th to 10th grade. In addition, they had recently narrowed test score gaps between each of their racial/ethnic groups and white students in the rest of the state. Schools from the other states were highly recommended by experts. They too came with evidence of impressive achievement. At the conference, teams from each of the schools made brief presentations and then faced extensive questioning from experts about the methods by which they achieved such outstanding progress. The main lesson from the presentations was that student achievement rose when leadership teams focused thoughtfully and relentlessly on improving the quality of instruction. Core groups of leaders took public responsibility for leading the charge to raise achievement. Stakeholders crafted mission statements that later helped keep them on track; planned carefully, sometimes with outside assistance, for how they would organize learning experiences for teachers; clearly defined criteria for high quality teaching and student work; and implemented in ways that engaged their whole faculties. As they implemented their plans, these schools carefully monitored both student and teacher work in order to continuously refine their approaches.
Ferguson, Ronald F., Sandra Hackman, Robert Hanna, and Ann Ballantine. "How High Schools Become Exemplary." AGI Conference Report, June 1, 2010.