Mount Vernon City School District, Mount Vernon, New York
Challenge: Mount Vernon City School District, an urban system on New York City’s northern border, has suffered through years of academic and structural neglect, causing low graduation rates disparities in access to learning. High illiteracy, suspensions and violence were also pervasive.
Initiative: The comprehensive 20/20 Academic Vision school reform model focuses on culture, systems, instruction and leadership. All elementary schools switched to a preK through 8 structure, with an emphasis on early childhood education, including full-day pre-K. The district also created three theme-based high schools—a performing arts school, a STEAM academy, and a comprehensive high school with a focus on CTE, IB and AVID programming. The district has also partnered with cultural organizations, such as the Lincoln Arts Center.
Impact: “Giving students choice and meeting them with the most current instructional best practices is setting us apart from other districts,” Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton says. Literacy and mathematics scores—and graduation rates—have increased, while the number of failing schools has decreased.
Advice: “It’s important to build a culture of trust and a steadfast vision for our children,” says Hamilton. Staying humble, acting as public servants, and remaining true to the moral imperative that kids come first is also essential.