High-Achieving Middle Schools for Latino Students in Poverty

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This study was conducted to examine the characteristics of middle schools in which Latino students from low-income families made substantial achievement gains. Nine schools in Texas were selected where Latino students had shown strong gains in the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. Data from onsite interviews, focus groups, and documents were reviewed for evidence of 57 characteristics of effective schools. As expected, schools were characterized by strong leadership; a clear focus on achievement; positive climate, including supportive relationships among students and teachers; and good communications with parents. Surprisingly little attention was paid to providing culturally relevant curriculum or bilingual instruction. The schools generally exhibited a strong coherence, marked by articulation of common goals and a strong sense of guiding purpose, shared norms, consistent messages, and consistency of beliefs and practices. The schools could be further improved by drawing more explicitly on the cultural knowledge of home and community.