High Poverty High Achieving Schools

Pinewood Elementary in South Charlotte is scoring very well in standardized tests even though 80% of the students live in poverty. Here is the article.

The unorthodox teaching methods include:

What works?

Here are some of the things Pinewood Principal Nancy Guzman and her faculty say create high test scores at a high-poverty school.


The weakest students are in very small classes with a strong teacher and an assistant. Advanced students are in larger classes that move faster.


Pinewood students participate in Accelerated Reader, a widely used program that encourages students to read books they enjoy, and do regular “fluency drills,” in which students repeatedly check each other to see how fast and accurately they can read short passages out loud.


Guzman decides which CMS programs work well for her students, and gives teachers freedom to make their own choices as long as they get results. For instance, the fourth-grade team decided to specialize by subject, with their students changing classes for reading, math, writing and science/social studies.

Other schools that are doing better than poverty levels would predict:

Garinger’s New Technology High: This experimental small school was created last school year with about 100 freshmen, about two-thirds from low-income homes. The eastside school logged some of the district’s highest scores. Still to be seen: Will success continue as the school grows to include grades 9-12?

Collinswood Language Academy: This magnet elementary school in south Charlotte offers dual-immersion teaching in English and Spanish. All types of students, including those who are just learning English, significantly outscore similar students statewide and across CMS. Just over half the kids are poor, and 58 percent are Hispanic.

First Ward Elementary: This center-city school combines neighborhood students and a magnet program that uses techniques developed for gifted kids. Most students are low-income and African American; they outperform similar groups statewide and in CMS.


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