Remarkable things are happening at Laurel Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. Ninety percent of its 580 students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. More than 60 percent of its students are classified as English learners. And yet the school has established a stellar record of success: a national Title I Distinguished School Award in 2012 in recognition of its high academic achievement, a Golden Bell Award for its innovative writing program, and a Dispelling the Myth award from the nonprofit Education Trust. Despite years of state funding cuts and classes that average 30 or more kids apiece, an amazing 83 percent of Laurel Street’s students scored at proficient or higher on a recent state language-arts exam, and 91 percent scored that high on the math test.
Laurel Street kids tend to do better on math because it’s a kind of transitional language for students still learning to read and speak English fluently, said fourth-grade math teacher Angel Chavarin. He learned English himself while attending a Los Angeles public school years ago. Laurel Street students rarely express a typical lament of American students: “I’m not a math person.” Instead, teachers say they’re more likely to hear the opposite. “We have kids who say they’re good in math, but not in language arts,” said Chavarin. “We tell them they can be good in both.” <Read more.>