Jackson Central-Merry (JCM) Academy for Medical Technology, located in Jackson, TN, is an inner city, high-poverty (95%), and high-minority (93%) high school of approximately 800 students. Since being restructured four years ago, principal Eric Jones and the staff of JCM have created a safe, orderly, and inviting school environment that supports learning, encourages regular attendance, and promotes positive student behavior. A consistent focus on literacy has enabled JCM to increase student state test scores, improve the graduation rate from 54% to 91%, and produce a significant increase in ACT scores.
The leadership team at JCM understands that real, long-term, systemic and sustainable school improvement begins in the classroom with the mindsets and practices of the teachers. Like every school implementing the Common Core State Standards, JCM is a work in progress. However, JCM has been able to do what few other schools have even attempted to accomplish—change classroom practices by building the collective capacity of the teaching staff using a defined set of instructional practices school wide. Not only do JCM teachers teach bell-to-bell, but they also ensure that reading, writing, and discussion using higher-order thinking and real-world application are an integral part of every lesson each day. Finally, JCM understands that the key to the school’s success is implementation with fidelity.
By Dr. Teresa Littrell McDaniel, Assistant Principal, Jackson (TN) Central-Merry Academy
The onset of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards has raised the awareness of educators regarding the rigor of instruction in many classrooms and the depth at which teachers engage students in rigorous curriculum. I have spent most of my career in Title I, low socioeconomic status schools labeled as “low-performing/target” for failing to meet AYP where, despite the best efforts of No Child Left Behind, the majority of students enter high school significantly below grade level in basic reading and math skills.
In many ways, less than adequately prepared teachers could “hide” in these schools since students are often not expected to achieve at the same level of “good standing” high schools. However, international tests like NAEP and PISA suggest that American students are less prepared than their international peers for college and career.
Perhaps more importantly, business and industry leaders unabashedly proclaim that the “business as usual” status of American schools is not producing a hirable workforce in the global economy. Policymakers seem to be suggesting that we can just identify and fire the bad teachers and hire new ones. But those of us in