RHS Is Best in USA: Named Top Urban School by NCUST

May 28, 2014
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It’s good to be the best, and this week, Revere High School (RHS) is just that.

On Friday, RHS was named the lone high school Gold Medal winner in the nation by the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) at San Diego State University – making the school on School Street the top urban school in the nation.

RHS beat out schools from Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Charlotte and Portland (Oregon).

RHS will receive a $5,000 check at a special presentation ceremony this Friday, May 30, at the high school. However, the status will be worth more than the check, as educators from all over the country will be focusing in on RHS as a model to copy at their own schools. It will also, school officials said, be a tremendous help to students who are applying to college and other professional program.

“They really built up the tension,” said Supt. Paul Dakin of the announcement ceremony last Friday. “They mixed up the announcements and didn’t do it in order so you never knew when you would be called. You really had no way to figure it out until they said it. When they finally called us for Gold, people freaked out.

“We had a great presentation out there and it was very well attended,” he said. “It’s just a great thing for the teachers and for the district. It’s all a connected strategy that we’re seeing pay off right now. The high school kids now got to where they are because of Head Start and Early Childhood Education. It continues on all levels. If you deliver a better student to the high school, you’ll get more from that at the high school.”

RHS Principal Lourenco Garcia said this was a “rare moment” and one that the entire community could point to as a source of pride.

“This is huge,” he said. “During my entire life as a principal, this is one of the rare moments I always wanted to witness. It’s meaningful for all of us in the community…This is not about winning and losing, but about what students can achieve.”

He added that it shows many of the changes instituted over the last several years – including a block schedule, collaboration, teacher supports and the Freshman Academy, among others – are paying off.

“All of these things have contributed to what’s going on here and moving the school forward,” he said. “All of them have contributed to putting RHS and the district on the national map.”

The NCUST is one of the foremost institutes to study innovation in urban schools. Nearly 100 schools were nominated to participate in this year’s awards, and those numbers were culled down over the past six months.

In January and February, evaluators from San Diego visited RHS and spoke with students, teachers, parents and community members. They also looked through the facilities and spent a couple of days looking at the educational plan and the testing data.

Apparently, it was enough.

“The finalists have attained a level of achievement more typically seen in schools that serve very affluent communities,” said Joseph F. Johnson, Jr., executive director of the NCUST. “They’ve demonstrated evidence of effectiveness among all of the student populations they serve, including English learners and students with disabilities. They prove that our nation’s urban schools can be wonderful centers of learning that change children’s lives,” Johnson said. “As a nation, we should be seeking out opportunities to applaud and support these schools while we provide systematic, substantive assistance to other schools seeking to attain similar results.”

To compete for the award, schools had to serve predominantly low-­‐income students; yet the schools had to meet a long list of student performance criteria, including achievement scores, high attendance rates, low suspension rates, and high graduation rates for every demographic group of students. Each racial/ethnic/income group served had to demonstrate rates of proficiency that exceeded the proficiency rates for all students in the state. The schools could not use any selective admission criteria to screen out less capable students. NCUST examined a variety of evidences of excellence including access to rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, student success in high – level programs and courses (e.g., advanced placement programs), the academic proficiency of English learners, and the percentages of graduates demonstrating success in college.

Finalists were drawn from a large pool of applicants that included many schools that have earned recognition as National Blue Ribbon Schools, National Title I Distinguished Schools, and winners of many other state and national awards.

Dakin said it has been a long journey for the district – going from a district where the schools were once disparaged within the community to a district where the schools are now celebrated inside and outside the community. He said it has been about everyone buying into the fact that it can be done.

“Since education reform in 1993, the district has taken advantage of the funding and built a system that took from previous principals and previous superintendents and had one clear understand – that being to make the best decisions for the kids,” he said. “That has been one of the biggest things and people have bought into it, including the teacher’s union…People have bought into what we’re doing and when you get that, you get success.”

Other gold medals went to an elementary school in California and a middles school in El Paso, TX.

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