Email Status

Volume 23, Number 3
May/June 2007

Finding High-Achieving Schools in Unexpected Places

An interview with Karin Chenoweth


In 2004, Karin Chenoweth, a longtime education writer and former Washington Post columnist, took on a challenging assignment: find and write about neighborhood public schools that “demonstrate that all children can learn.” Working with the Achievement Alliance and using a strict set of criteria, Chenoweth identified 15 schools and spent two years writing about them for a book, “It’s Being Done”: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools, published this month by Harvard Education Press. She spoke with the Harvard Education Letter about what she found in these schools, what they have in common, and why they are succeeding.

Describe an “It’s Being Done” school.

It’s a high-achieving or rapidly improving school that has a substantial number of children of color or children of poverty, or both. In most cases, more than 90 percent of these students are scoring proficient or above on state tests, sometimes less if they are in states with higher standards. The schools profiled in the book include a mix of big and small, urban and sub-urban, and racially isolated and integrated schools. The criteria I used are so stringent that it is safe to say that schools that meet all requirements are rare (“It’s Being Done’ School Criteria). I consider such schools to be precious resources that need careful study.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.