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Local School Gets Top Honor

SDSU’s National Center for Urban School Transformation selected Granger Junior High School as a top high-performing urban school in the country.
Granger Junior High School accepts a $5,000 check from NCUST and the gold-level award. (Photo Credit: Ray Perez)
Granger Junior High School accepts a $5,000 check from NCUST and the gold-level award. (Photo Credit: Ray Perez)

A San Diego school was awarded top honors for Excellence in Urban Education from San Diego State University’s National Center for Urban School Transformation.

Granger Junior High School in National City, which instructs grades 7-9 in the Sweetwater Union High School District, was presented with the center’s highest honor — gold — at the national symposium in Houston. Urban schools like Granger often struggle, with a lack of resources, low test scores and poor attendance.

The SDSU center, under the leadership of Joe Johnson, Ph.D., identifies, celebrates, and studies urban schools that achieve excellent academic results. The center works hand-in-hand with educators to not only improve urban education, but transform it.

“Granger Junior High School is among the best urban schools in the nation,” Johnson said. “It is representative of a select group of typical schools that are achieving atypical results.”

Highly selective winners

To be eligible for the NCUST award, schools must have high numbers of low-income students and may not have selective admissions policies. The school’s test results must be better than the state average for all students and the test results for every demographic group of students must be better than the state average for all students. All schools must have high attendance rates, low suspension and expulsion rates, high graduation rates and evidence of excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

"One of our goals is to recognize more schools that are doing great work,” Johnson said. “When schools see other schools succeeding, they see that their goals are attainable, and often they are inspired to improve their efforts.”

Seventeen elementary, junior high, and high schools were identified as bronze-level finalists for the National Excellence in Urban Education Award. Each of those finalists received a site visit from an NCUST evaluation team of researchers and practitioners. Of those finalists, eight were selected for bronze-level, four for silver-level, and four for gold-level recognition, having demonstrated rigorous curricula, effective instruction and positive, productive school climates.

 “All students of all groups need to be educated in a way that will encourage them to be high achievers, and that is what NCUST is dedicated to help urban schools do,” Johnson said.

At the National Excellence in Urban Education Symposium, on May 23 and 24, all of the winners were recognized and one elementary, one middle school, one high school and one alternative school were named as gold-level award winners — Granger Junior High School was one of them.

The other gold-level award winners included Synergy Charter School in South Central Los Angeles, MacArthur High School in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, and Dayton Business Technology High, an alternative school in Dayton, Ohio.

Silver-level winners will receive $2,500 and gold-level winners will receive $5,000. Additionally, all winners will receive a variety of other prizes and forms of recognition for their schools.

A systematic approach

NCUST, created in 2005 as part of the Qualcomm Institute for Innovation and Educational Success at SDSU with a $15 million endowment from the company, seeks to transform urban schools performing at or below acceptable standards into high-achieving educational environments.

Since its inception, the center has identified, celebrated and promoted the best practices of the nation’s highest performing urban schools, honoring 76 schools in 20 states.

NCUST provides programs, tools and research intended to help districts create more high-performing urban schools.

The center implements three key initiatives for urban schools as part of a systematic approach to increase the number of urban schools nationwide that achieve exceptional academic results. They are:

“Too often demographics define destiny,” Johnson said. “All students of all groups need to be educated in a way that will encourage them to be high achievers, and that is what NCUST is dedicated to help urban schools do.”

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