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New Jersey School Outshines International Counterparts

New Jersey school proves that low-income schools can be globally competitive
Wed, 04/03/2013

Newark, NJ, April 3, 2013 –North Star Academy, a Newark charter school, serves largely low-income, minority students, yet it outperformed all but nine other countries in reading in a recent pilot program.

North Star Academy took part in a pilot study involving 105 U.S. high schools that took a new test known as the OECD test for schools based on the highly respected Program for International Student Assessment or "PISA exam."  This test is a school-level internationally benchmarked tool that measures reading, math and science knowledge and skills of 15 year olds, as well as key competencies such as critical thinking and problem-solving.

A national analysis of pilot program results conducted by America Achieves, a nonprofit educational organization, has revealed that a large percentage of American middle class high schools have not kept pace as countries like Singapore, Finland, Korea and Germany have raised standards, invested in teachers and lifted their overall performance.

North Star Academy, serves largely low-income, minority students from fairly disadvantaged backgrounds as measured by OECD.  Yet North Star outperformed all but the averages of nine other countries in reading, and its math and science scores track closely to far wealthier middle class American schools, although still behind much of the world.

North Star’s success rests on three pillars: data driven instruction, student culture, and instructional leadership.  North Star uses everything from interim assessments to daily homework to target instruction precisely to student needs.  The instructional leadership program uses frequent observation and feedback to drive teacher learning.  North Star’s final pillar is a focus on student culture and creating a calm and orderly school climate.  The OECD’s data analysis for the school revealed that this factor was more correlated with math achievement than any other.

“We are proud of the system we have built,” said Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, Managing Director, North Star Network of Uncommon Schools. “We hope our success can help shape other schools, but we must keep growing. If Shanghai is the bar, we have a long ways to go.” 

America Achieves is expanding this program – challenging all U.S. high schools to find out how they compare with top performing countries in the world and to take action to improve. Individual schools across the country can register to participateand learn how their schools compare to high performing countries.

The pilot program was partnered with new analysis of 2009 PISA data that reveals how U.S. middle class students compare to students around the world of similar means in math, science, and reading (analysis not new). The data showsAmerican students are on average more advantaged than many of their global counterpartsand yet are consistently outperformed.  Across all income levels, 16 countries outperformed America in reading, 32 countries outperformed America in math and 21 countries outperformed us in science.  The assumption has always been that extreme poverty in America was pulling down our overall scores, but according to this new analysis even America’s middle-class schools are far from world-class.

In order to reach the full report and to get more information on how a school or district can apply please go to:


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America Achieves helps communities and states leverage policy, practice, and leadership to build high-quality educational systems and prepare each young person for success in careers, college, and citizenship.