Lessons from a Public School Turnaround


In this installment, we show you how Cochrane Collegiate Academy, once among the lowest-performing middle schools in North Carolina, is rebuilding itself by investing in research-based teaching strategies, enhancing teacher excellence, and fostering strong relationships.

By Mariko Nobori

The bell rings and most of the ninth-grade students in Ms. Johnson's English class are still standing. As she dims the lights and presses play on the laptop, it becomes clear why. Within moments, the students -- and Ms. Johnson -- are dancing and rapping along to a video: "Plot . . . Character . . . Conflict . . . Theme . . . Setting! Yes, these are the five things . . . ."

Once the song is over, the students settle into their seats, and Ms. Johnson begins peppering them with questions about the five elements of a well-constructed story: "What is the conflict in our story? How does setting affect the characters? What's the difference between plot and theme?"

This is one of the dynamic ways that students learn -- and retain -- lessons at Cochrane Collegiate Academy, a once failing middle school in Charlotte, North Carolina, that's now on the rise. (Read more…)

For sharing their research about some of the top-performing urban school districts in the country, Edutopia thanks the The Broad Foundation and its associates at RMC Research Corporation, in particular, Broad Prize Associate Director Nancy Que and RMC Research Corporation Vice President Shelley H. Billig.


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STW Edutopia's Schools That Work series profiles K-12 schools, districts, and programs that are dramatically improving the way students learn. Focusing on evidenced-based successes, we create how-to videos and actionable tip lists to help you transform your schools. We get close to the teachers, students, principals, and other administrators who have changed the future of their schools, and show you how they did it.

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