After years of decline, a Boston school rebounds

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A class of third-graders at Trotter Elementary School staked out positions on “Jack and the Beanstalk” as if they were arguing a case before the US Supreme Court.

In debating Jack’s motives for repeatedly climbing up the beanstalk and stealing from the giant, the students didn’t rely on gut instinct or emotion, but on evidence they uncovered in the fairy tale.

“He shouldn’t have gone up [the beanstalk] the third time,” one boy said. “The third paragraph said they were well off for some time.”

Jakhai Nicholson agreed, pointing to the fourth paragraph: “He had the hen that laid golden eggs.”

Getting students to think big and probe deep has been a hallmark of a turnaround effort at the Trotter, located at the Dorchester-Roxbury line, and the approach has paid off enormously.

In just three years, the Trotter has catapulted from being identified as one of the worst schools in the state to being considered one of the best. State standardized test scores have risen sharply, and in September, state education officials removed a three-year-old “underperforming” designation, elevating the Trotter into Level 1, the top category dominated by schools from Wellesley, Newton and other affluent suburbs.

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