5 Lessons Learned about Student Success

by | Apr 3, 2013

Union City, New Jersey, an urban city just across the Hudson from Manhattan, has done the unthinkable.  They went from having one of the worst school districts in the state to competing with the best.

What was their success? Professor David L. Kirp reveals in Improbable Scholars how a poor urban school district has 90 percent of its students (majority are Latino immigrants) graduate from high school, which is 10 percent more than the nationwide average, and 75 percent of them enroll in college. He not only chronicles their success but also includes recommendations for implementation in other communities whether you are urban, suburban or rural.

5 Lessons Learned:

  1. Create and Follow a Long-Term Plan: The school district committed to a long-term strategy for success.  The results stated above did not occur within a year or even five years but instead ten years.
  2. Utilize Research-Based Strategies: A key element of their strategy was an investment in universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds.  There is significant research showing the benefits of early education.
  3. Invest in Your Talent – They provide hands-on help for teachers, create a supportive learning community and have great school leaders.
  4. Integrate New Strategies – When beneficial new strategies have emerged, like using sophisticated data-crunching to generate pinpoint assessments to help individual students, they have been folded into the long-term plan.
  5. Partner with the Community – Parents are considered partners and engaged in their student’s school.  The community’s culture is respected and embraced.

For more information about Union City, the Center for American Progress recently hosted a panel discussion about the guiding principles that helped transform Union City’s educational system.

At Transform Consulting Group, we can assist organizations with applying these lessons learned. Contact us today for a consultation!


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