Introduce the Clip: On October 24, 2013, Thornwell principal Julie Mahn and her team were in Myrtle Beach attending the South Carolina Association of Title I Administrators conference. Coordinating teacher Wanda Govan-Augustus explains that Thornwell is one of eight Title I schools in the state that showed tremendous growth on state tests over the past year. Title I is a federal program that provides funding to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families. In her presentation, Julie explains that she is now in her fifth year at Thornwell. When she started in 2009, out of 265 children, 700 disciplinary referrals were made; 7 children had been expelled; 60 percent of first graders were reading below grade level; and the school had no parent support. She said it took a long time to turn around the test scores, but growth was slow and steady. Finally at the end of her fourth year, “We had the data. It was big this year.” Thornwell moved from a C school (with a grade of 76.7) to an A school (with a grade of 92.9). The school didn’t win the award, but was in the top three performing Title I schools in the state.
• What lessons did you learn from Thornwell’s turnaround?
• What were some of the reasons Julie Mahn gave for the school’s improvement? (Building relationships; community involvement included a bus tour to meet families and gain a better understanding of the children’s neighborhoods.)
• What benefits do you see in having administrators and schools compete with one another for statewide recognition?
• Julie was disappointed but not discouraged by her school’s loss. She explained, “When you’re competitive, it makes you work.” How do you think her school will perform in the school year (2013-2014) shown in the film?
• What impact will increasing test scores have of improving graduation rates? How can competition motivate children to achieve ... and strive to attend college?
Think about action steps that your school and community can take to replicate Thornwell’s “slow but steady” progress to increase test scores. How can your community leverage 180 Days: Hartsville’s media assets to address or give visibility to this effort?