How Inner City Elementary Schools Raised Achievement Scores by 50-100 Points

If it were just one school it might be considered a fluke. If it were only two, it would be a very strange coincidence. But when dozens of inner city schools with predominantly minority populations all report sharp increases in state achievement scores, something significant must be going on.

Administrators in each of the schools give credit to a revolutionary writing program that enhances learning across the board.

"I believe (it) works because our students become enthusiastic and motivated learners," says Catherine Andrews, Title One Coordinator at Flournoy Elementary, which saw its test scores increase 57 points.

The program is The Write Connection which is designed to enhance the teaching of language arts by focusing more attention on writing. The thinking goes like this: Proficient writers become better readers and that leads to improvement in comprehension in all subject areas.

"In most schools, the writing portion of language arts is lacking," says Deborah Stephenson, who developed The Write Connection program. "This program provides a realistic approach to writing that incorporates state standards and frameworks."

Stephenson, a former teacher, began creating the program for her mostly Hispanic students to help them write. After five years of seeing success in her own classroom, she left her job to focus on developing the education writing program. After three years, it morphed into The Write Connection.

And the scores speak for themselves: Synergy Elementary increased their API (Academic Performance Index) by a whopping 104 points in 2006, the highest gain of any school. And Century Park Elementary increased their API by 64 points in 2007-the most significant increase in five years.

"This program reverses the achievement gap in high ethnic schools," says Stephenson, "that's no small accomplishment and schools nationwide could start closing the gap, too."

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