NPR logo

Harlem School Aces Math Test

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/92059632/92059599" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Harlem School Aces Math Test

Education

Harlem School Aces Math Test

Harlem School Aces Math Test

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/92059632/92059599" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

President Bush visits one of the Harlem Village Academy charter schools. Jesse Winter/Harlem Village Academies hide caption

toggle caption
Jesse Winter/Harlem Village Academies

In a society obsessed with school testing, one public school in New York City has achieved the perfect score.

One hundred percent — every single student — of the eighth grade at Harlem Village Academy passed the state's math test.

What's the key to the school's success? It's not a selection process: Students are admitted to the charter school by lottery, not any sort of screening. It's not small class size: There can be 28 or more students in a class.

Deborah Kenny, founder of Harlem Village Academies, says that with all the dire warnings about failing schools, officials try to analyze exactly what successful schools like hers do and then require all other schools to do the same.

"It's a completely incorrect way to transform education," she says. Teaching shouldn't be compliance-driven, she says. "Education is all about the person standing at the front of the room."

Kenny says that the key to her school's success is attracting, developing and retaining great teachers.

"How do you create an amazing environment for teachers?" she asks. "And when you start to give enough thought and put enough time into that, you begin to come up with the answers."

Harlem Village's teachers all work together to create common goals and guidelines for expected behavior from students. Kenny says it's about consistency.

"If you insist on a behavior and every other one of your colleagues in the school is insisting on that same exact expectation, the kids all of the sudden realize, 'Wow! The teachers are all on the same page.'"

While Kenny doesn't think that what her school does can be forced by legislation on other schools, she does believe that her approach can succeed elsewhere.

"It is absolutely scalable. It is absolutely possible," she says. "All teachers want a school environment like this. ... All children really, really can transform themselves into children who behave well and learn at a high level."