San Jose School Makes Major Transformation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Looks like one San Jose School can be considered a poster child for improvement.

    In 2005 and 2006 Lowell Elementary did not meet federal targets for adequate yearly progress. This year the school just received  a Title One academic achievement award from the state of California

    How did the school turnaround?  Principal Jodi Lax says, "We spend a lot of time looking at test scores, trying to determine where our areas of weakness are and teachers use that information to plan their lessons."

    The school also targets struggling students and offers them an extra hour of instruction after school. In April the school will even offer instruction during the weekend in a special Saturday Academy.

    The students are more engaged in the process now too. They take benchmark tests every six weeks and are told how they are doing and the class goals for testing. Every day in the classroom they are also told the purpose of each lesson. The students have also learned to use special thinking maps, or visual tool to help them process what they've learned.

    The efforts are paying off . The school has squashed the state's performance goal of five points improvement a year with a 100 point gain in three years.

    We tell you the story of Lowell on a day when California's Department of Education released its list of the state's "persistently low-achieving schools" Monday and the Bay Area was well-represented.

    The list of about 190 schools includes more than a dozen Bay Area schools in five different regional counties.

    The review was supposed to improve California's chances of winning a Race to the Top grant from the Obama administration. But last week, the White House revealed California did not make the first cut of that program.

    Under state and federal laws, the schools will be subject to a number of sanctions. They can close their doors, replace the principal, get rid of at least half the staff or reopen as an independently-run charter, or go for a less drastic option called the "transformation model" which requires schools improve teaching, leadership and instruction time without calling for staff changes.