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School of thought in Brockton, Mass.

In 1998, when Massachusetts first implemented new standardized testing that was required for graduation, administrators at Brockton High School learned that more than 75 percent of their 4,000 students would fail to graduate.

But over the last decade a small group of dedicated teachers have changed the way every class is taught. They began a schoolwide literacy program to reinforce literacy skills in every class, including math, science and even gym. The transformation at Brockton has been remarkable: Failure rates for that state test have dropped to 6 percent for English, and the school was featured in a 2009 report on exceptional public high schools by the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University.

Dr. Susan Szachowicz, Brockton’s principal, says, “I think the concept of ‘turnaround’ is one of the most deceptive words that you can use. Because it implies people from the outside leaping into the school to turn everything around … We did not fire all the teachers. We did work with a team that we had. And we had some pretty dramatic results.”


Brockton’s retired teachers devise a script for success