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High Performing High Minority Elementary Schools:
Where are they located and
what do they have in common?

by Tiffany Anderson
Eureka, Missouri

Dr. Tiffany Anderson.
Dr. Tiffany Anderson.

Dr. Tiffany Anderson is the assistant superintendent in the Rockwood School District, Eureka, Missouri.

The lessons from the 90/90/90 schools are consistently clear. There is no secret ingredient, it is a plan to follow the steps outlined that work, a focus on the goals, and a commitment to improved performance.

While many schools struggle with minority achievement, it is a fact that schools nation wide have consistently demonstrated high achievement and score at the top of their state. The ingredients to excellence used are a mixture of good teaching, an aligned curriculum, and high expectations. High performance is no secret; however we consistently act as if high minority achievement is impossible. Given the foundation starts in elementary school, and elementary schools make up the majority of the schools systems, I have focused on elementary schools within this text. While all 90/90/90 schools share the four characteristics, the secondary implementation looks very different due to the requirements of courses, points, scheduling and college preparation. If middle and high schools are closely aligned to build on to the offerings in elementary a solid foundation can be built for students. In an effort to bring greater attention to the schools who have dispelled the myth of low minority achievement being common place, I have outlined the research on what is common in these elementary schools and listed the schools from which educators can learn.

When high performance occurs in minority schools, skeptics may dismiss the performance results as an anomaly or a result of a new administrator who has higher standards. While the administrator is part of the solution, a system of improvement is also equally improvement for sustained consistent high achievement. While small systems which have improvement may be less notable, large systems which demonstrate improvement in many schools are examples of a system being used to improve performance. For the purpose of the information highlighted, two school districts that have been highlighted nationally are used to highlight the commonalities high performing high minority schools share.

In research conducted by Douglas Reeves, he outlines the five characteristics that 90/90/90 schools share. According to Reeves, despite the fact that 90% of the students are free or reduced lunch eligible, 90% of the students are an ethnic minority, and 90% are achieving in the top 10% of the district and state standards, these schools have common characteristics.

Reeves outlined the five characteristics 90/90/90 schools share as follows:

1. Focus on achievement
2. A clear curriculum
3. Frequent assessments and opportunities for students to show improvements
4. A focus on writing in all areas.
5. External scoring of student work.

Focus on Achievement

Houston Independent School District

Houston a district with 210,000 students and 300 schools has demonstrated that student achievement consistently can rise across a district that is spread over 300 square miles. Only 10% of the student population is white while 32% are African American and 55% Hispanic. More than 75% of the students qualify for free reduced lunch. The Texas Assessment of Academic skills rated 66 of the schools as exemplary in performance.

Houston began involving the community in having a focus on achievement, understanding where the district currently performed, and identifying goals in improving. Disaggregated data was shared with the school and community, scores were posted in schools, and committees were organized around the issues of achievement. The school improvement plan was posted on the district website and placed in accessible locations for all schools.

Resources and priorities were changed to support school achievement. Houston formed a decentralization committee that reassessed the budget and identified funds in the general operating budget to move to schools to support achievement goals. The emphasis was on equitably funding schools using a student weighted formula allowing for schools to be funded based on students needs. The decentralization committee is comprised of central office staff, principals, and community members. The model supported allocating staffing resources based on student needs. Through shared decision making, non Title I funded programs were examined and decentralized according to what programs had few gains. This process allowed the district to reallocate $5,000,0000 to schools.

Houston implemented a project called CLEAR (Clarifying Learning to Enhance Achievement Results). The project clarified what is to be taught and assessed, and it aligned the curriculum to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Project Clear is a tool for teachers to enable them to closely follow the district’s curriculum, and have access to various assessment tools supporting what is to be taught and tested in the district. Teachers are given laptops with project Clear materials on it to enable teachers to use the resources and have web-based curriculum resources accessible at all times. The Learning and Leadership Academy collaborated with the district to provide curriculum training through Project Clear.

District area superintendents began closely monitoring the schools by area. Schools were formally assessed by the district supervisor every three months while ongoing assessments were done within each school. Administrator discussions around data and assessments being used by schools were held, making each administrator accountable for understanding data and assessments being used. Ongoing district assessments requiring frequent writing was implemented and an external scoring system was used allowing districts to use the data throughout the year to improve instruction.

Boston Public Schools

The Boston Public Schools have demonstrated consistent improvement through careful planning with a clear focus on student achievement. Only 15% of the Boston Public School students are white, 47% are black and 30% are hispanic. 74% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Boston’s 139 schools have over 60,000 students in attendance.

A focus on rewriting the curriculum was one of the first steps in Boston’s reform model. Boston developed a citywide plan in which national standards framed the standards of the district. A uniform set of district standards that aligned with state standards represented the best possible outcomes nationally, and held the district to a higher expectation of performance. Identified benchmarks allowed for continued assessment and monitoring of performance at all schools. While the state standards identified what students should demonstrate at the end of benchmark grades, the Boston Public School System identified in great detail what students should demonstrate at each grade level with an emphasis on core reading and writing performance objectives that were to be accomplished at each grade level.

Assessments were continuous through the Boston Public School teacher created assessments, and dialogue across the district enabled teachers to identify scoring guides that supported their assessments. Graduation portfolios were an additional requirement that required schools to collect specific student products that further demonstrated mastery of objectives.

The two schools briefly described are examples of the basic elements at work that create environments for high student achievement. Large school systems have demonstrated that high achievement for minority students can happen and more importantly they demand that it occurs. Even when over 60% of the students are scoring at high levels, the districts call for further school higher improvements each year. Each district implemented a clear vision aimed at high achievement, designed a curriculum that focused on writing and reading, and used assessments that were ongoing and required external scoring of student work.

Achievement gaps can be eliminated successfully by learning from the success of other districts, and there are many successes in which we can learn. Reeves states in his research that 90/90/90 schools do not have specific programs that they all implement, there is not one reading program or reform model; however the characteristics described from high performing high minority schools are a base from which we can all grow.

Performing at the top 10% of the state with over 75% minority students

The following are schools performing at the top 10% of the state with over 75% minority students. The list can be obtained from the Dispelling the Myth Educational Trust website,

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
North Slope Borough Meade River School 97.6 98.8
Chatham Schools Angoon School 97.6 94.7
Yukon/Koyukuk Schools Andrew K. Demoski School 97.6 96.6
Yakutat School District Yakutat School 90.2 81.8

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Phoenix Elementary District Magnet Traditional School 92.5 77.5
Tucson Unified District Tully Elementary Accelerated Magnet School 92.4 79.2

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
Los Angeles Unified View Park Preparatory Accelerated Charter 90.4 99.6 100

District of Columbia
District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
District Of Columbia Pub Schls Moten Elementary School 94.2 100
District Of Columbia Pub Schls Drew Elementary School 93.2 100
District Of Columbia Pub Schls Burrville Elementary School 93.2 100

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Dade County School District North Dade Center For Modern Language 95.0 91.5

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Atlanta City Hubert Elementary School 100.0 91.0
Dekalb County Narvie Harris Elementary School 98.3 99.1
Muscogee County Rigdon Road Elementary School 98.3 98.0
Atlanta City F. L. Stanton Elementary School 98.3 100.0
Atlanta City Beecher Hills Elementary School 95.9 100.0
Atlanta City Gideons Elementary School 95.9 98.7
Atlanta City Centennial Place Elementary School 93.2 96.6
Bibb County Bruce Elementary School 91.2 93.9
Decatur County Lillian E. Williams Elementary School 91.2 97.2
Dekalb County Marbut Elementary School 91.2 98.7

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Hawaii Dept Of Education Noelani Elementary School 100.0 75.5
Hawaii Dept Of Education Mililani Mauka Elementary School 99.5 86.3
Hawaii Dept Of Education Maemae Elementary School 98.9 90.3
Hawaii Dept Of Education Aina Haina Elementary School 98.4 82.3
Hawaii Dept Of Education Hokulani Elementary School 97.8 80.5
Hawaii Dept Of Education Nuuanu Elementary School 97.3 86.7
Hawaii Dept Of Education Manoa Elementary School 96.7 83.9
Hawaii Dept Of Education Momilani Elementary School 95.6 91.1
Hawaii Dept Of Education Kahala Elementary School 94.5 77.1
Hawaii Dept Of Education Wilson Elementary School 94.0 85.2
Hawaii Dept Of Education Lunalilo Elementary School 93.4 84.6

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
City Of Chicago School Dist 299 Skinner Elem School 100.0 100.0 84.4
City Of Chicago School Dist 299 Poe Elem Classical School 98.7 98.9 93.0
City Of Chicago School Dist 299 Mcdade Elem Classical School 98.6 99.0 98.4
East St Louis School Dist 189 Billy Jones Elementary School 98.4 98.8 100.0
East St Louis School Dist 189 Lucas Elem School 95.4 98.6 100.0
East St Louis School Dist 189 Jackson Elem School 90.9 97.9 100.0

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
Southern University Laboratory School Southern University Lab School 99.4 99.7 100.0
City Of Monroe School Board J. S. Clark Elementary School 97.7 99.2 76.8
Orleans Parish School Board Ben Franklin Elementary Math/Science Magnet 96.4 98.9 91.9
Caddo Parish School Board Judson Fundamental Elementary School 96.2 98.7 75.1
Caddo Parish School Board Claiborne Fundamental Elementary School 94.1 98.4 80.1

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Lowell Community Charter Lowell Community Charter Schoo 100.0 87.3
Boston Dante Alighieri 100.0 76.9
Boston lDennis C Haley 100.0 95.4
Boston Eliot Elementary 100.0 77.1
Boston James M Curley 100.0 84.1
Boston Rafael Hernandez 100.0 87.0
Boston Sarah Greenwood 100.0 99.0
Chelsea William A Berkowitz Elem 100.0 84.3
Holyoke E N White Elem 100.0 77.4
Lawrence Alexander B Bruce 100.0 89.3
Lynn Wm P Connery 100.0 80.3
Springfield Rebecca M Johnson 100.0 89.7
Springfield Alfred G Zanetti 100.0 81.2
Springfield Lincoln 100.0 88.1
Springfield Gerena 100.0 92.9
Springfield lSumner Avenue 100.0 75.6

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
Detroit City School District Chrysler Elementary School 100.0 100.0 99.5
Detroit City School District Bates Academy 100.0 100.0 99.2
Detroit City School District Brady Elementary School 96.5 100.0 100.0
Detroit City School District Kosciusko Elementary School 94.2 98.5 97.2
Detroit City School District Fleming Elementary School 93.7 100.0 99.2
Detroit City School District Monnier Elementary School 93.0 98.3 100.0
Pontiac City School District Longfellow School 92.3 98.1 87.8

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
Jackson Public School Dist Baker Magnet 100.0 100.0 94.2
Jackson Public School Dist Key Elementary School 100.0 100.0 93.3
Jackson Public School Dist Apac Power School 100.0 100.0 75.7
Leake Co School Dist South Leake Elementary School 100.0 100.0 83.8
Leflore County School District T Y Fleming School 100.0 100.0 94.4
Wilkinson Co School Dist Finch School 100.0 100.0 99.3
Biloxi Public School Dist Dukate Elementary 100.0 100.0 81.6
Columbus Municipal School Dist Joe Cook Elementary School 92.2 90.0 75.5

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
University City Barbara Jordan Elem. 100.0 100.0 100.0
University City Delmar Harvard Elem. 96.0 100.0 86.4
St. Louis City Baden Elem. 96.0 98.2 100.0
St. Louis City Banneker Elem. 96.0 98.2 100.0
St. Louis City Laclede Elem. 96.0 98.2 100.0
St. Louis City Columbia Elem. Comm. Ed. Ctr. 96.0 98.2 100.0

New Jersey
District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Union City Woodrow Wilson 97.9 91.6

Puerto Rico
Department Of Education School District
730 Out Of 880 Schools Have Above 75% Students Of Color And They Score At The Top 10% Of The State.

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
Memphis City School District John P. Freeman Optional School 95.0 100.0 99.8
Nashville-Davidson County Sd Hull Jackson Montessori 93.8 90.6 76.7
Nashville-Davidson County Sd Ross Elementary School 93.0 99.7 81.8

District Name School Name State %ile for overall score (2002) State %ile for African American score (2002) %
Rapoport Charter Sch Rapoport Academy 100.0 100.0 96.3
Two Dimensions Prepa Two Dimensions Preparatory Aca 100.0 100.0 97.8
A W Brown-Fellowship A W Brown-Fellowship Charter S 100.0 100.0 100.0
Children First Acade Children First Academy Of Hous 100.0 100.0 99.8
Alief Isd Outley El 100.0 100.0 77.9
Austin Isd Blackshear El 100.0 100.0 98.4
Beaumont Isd Dunbar El 100.0 100.0 97.4
KBeaumont Isd Homer Dr El 100.0 100.0 90.3
Brazosport Isd T W Ogg El 100.0 100.0 76.7
Del Valle Isd Hornsby-Dunlap El 100.0 100.0 78.8
El Paso Isd Park El 100.0 100.0 79.9
Fort Bend Isd Lula Belle Goodman Elementary 100.0 100.0 95.3
Fort Worth Isd Edward Briscoe El 100.0 100.0 98.4
Galena Park Isd Pyburn El 100.0 100.0 87.7
Galena Park Isd Tice El 100.0 100.0 296.0
Houston Isd Bastian El 100.0 100.0 100.0
Houston Isd Bruce El 100.0 100.0 98.7
Houston Isd Cornelius El 100.0 100.0 97.6
Houston Isd Easter El 100.0 100.0 97.1
Houston Isd Fondren El 100.0 100.0 98.1
Houston Isd Kennedy El 100.0 100.0 98.8
Houston Isd Lockhart El 100.0 100.0 99.4
Houston Isd Mading El 100.0 100.0 99.8
Houston Isd Will Rogers El 100.0 100.0 88.8
Houston Isd Roosevelt El 100.0 100.0 96.4
Houston Isd Ross El 100.0 100.0 99.8
Houston Isd Sanderson El 100.0 100.0 100.0
Houston Isd Turner El 100.0 100.0 99.5
Houston Isd Wesley El 100.0 100.0 99.9
Houston Isd Lyons El 100.0 100.0 94.8
Houston Isd Tsu/Hisd Lab School 100.0 100.0 100.0
Houston Isd T H Rogers El 100.0 100.0 75.9
Killeen Isd Marlboro El 100.0 100.0 76.1
Mckinney Isd Finch El 100.0 100.0 79.1
Port Arthur Isd Franklin El 100.0 100.0 98.1
Richardson Isd Aikin El 100.0 100.0 84.5
San Antonio Isd Tynan El 100.0 100.0 99.2
Victoria Isd Dudley G/T Mag 100.0 100.0 80.3

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
South Hero Folsom Ed. & Community Ctr 99.5 99.5

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Fairfax County Public Schools Mount Eagle Elem. 94.2 88.1

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Seattle School Dist 1 Muir 98.3 88.3

District Name School Name State %ile for
overall score (2002)
% Non-White
Bayfield Sch Dist Bayfield El 96.6 79.0
Milwaukee Sch Dist Bruce Guadalupe Bilingual Prog 96.6 97.8

  • Dispelling the Myth
  • Reeves, D. B. (2000, December). Accountability in action: A blueprint forlearning organizations. Denver, CO: Advanced Learning Press.

Published in In Motion Magazine December 5, 2004.

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