Ernest R. Geddes Elementary School in Baldwin Park, Calif., is a noisy place.
Students in older grades spend large amounts of class time talking and arguing with one another in small groups. One third-grade teacher, Pamela Ochoa, encourages the children in her group of struggling readers to get out of their chairs and dance. Kindergartners in another room interrupt stories to predict what will happen next and ask about words they don’t understand.
Often at this majority-Hispanic school, the arguments and singing that spill out of classrooms are in a mix of Spanish and English.
“I don’t like quiet classrooms,” says Virginia Castro, the school’s principal. “Learning is noisy.”
During her four-year tenure at Geddes, Castro has led the school from struggling to highly successful. In 2008, fewer than a third of students passed state reading tests. Last year, the percentage passing more than doubled to 62 percent. The gains are even more impressive when compared to students in the rest of the state.