Monroe Middle School Success Story
Inglewood, CA

Monroe Magnet Middle School in Inglewood Unified increased its score by a staggering 74 API Points

It takes more than just getting students to do better on a test for a school to move higher on California’s Academic Performance Index (API). When scores were released publically at the end of August 2013, Monroe Magnet Middle School in Inglewood Unified increased its score by a staggering 74 API points, the highest increase of any school in the entire South bay region. If you ask Monroe Magnet Principal Brent Tilley how this happened, it’s not just about teaching kids to do better on a test.

“We evaluated our beliefs concerning student learning,” said Tilley. “I know the majority of staff believes that all students can learn. Without that conviction, it would be exceedingly difficult to accomplish the gains our students made,” he said.

Tilley has deep roots at Monroe Magnet . He has logged 15 years at this one site alone, first as a social studies teacher, later as Magnet Coordinator and Assistant Principal prior to becoming Principal in 2012. Under his leadership, he has refocused staff on instruction, specifically reading and writing across the curriculum and using data to guide instruction. He has found that this approach best meets the needs of his diverse student population, which ranges from children who have previously had limited exposure to a challenging curriculum to those who actively participate in the school’s Magnet and GATE programs.

“The success we had at Monroe Magnet was not by accident,” said Monroe Magnet Assistant Principal Steve Donahue. “Our staff did a wonderful job focusing on literacy and putting students first and it is wonderful seeing our staff prove what can be accomplished with a clear goal in mind,” he said.

District support has helped also. In 2012, Monroe Magnet became the recipient of a School Improvement Grant, provided to three qualifying schools in the District – Monroe Magnet, Lane and Crozier. This grant, written as a collaboration between site and district leaders, brought 16 million dollars to support these schools. At Monroe alone, it injected $1.8 million dollars last year to completely transform teaching and learning. It pays for full-time instructional coaches, tutors and computer site technicians. It pays for the cost of adding valuable instructional minutes to the school day, in the amount of one hour every day. It has paid for staff development, training and weekly collaboration time for teachers and teams. It has also brought innovative reading and leadership programs such as READ 180 and AVID, as well as new computer equipment, software and technology.

“The additional collaboration and teaching time enabled teachers to focus on planning centered around recent student data,” said Vivienne Herman, Language Arts teacher and department chair. “As a result, classroom instruction was driven by individual student needs.”

These resources have enabled Tilley to set his instructional focus and vision into action. School-wide, he emphasized a structured focus on literacy and writing in all subject area, as well as the use of data. The weekly collaboration meetings with teachers and teams have enabled staff to plan and review student data regularly and adjust instruction to meet student needs. The positive impact on instruction was immediate.

“We continually emphasized with our staff that literacy is a life skill and not the instructional domain of any one subject,” said Tilley. “That belief was ultimately reflected in our planning, instruction and student learning.

The future blooms bright at Monroe Magnet Middle School. The school will continue to receive grant funding support for the next year and Tilley has big plans to elevate Monroe’s Magnet exemplary programs and staff to even greater levels. While the students and staff are elated by their growth, they understand that much work still remains to be done. With this in mind the school has recommitted itself to ensuring that all students continue to grow and improve.

“I am confident that with our heightened expectations and continued focus on literacy and data, we will provide our students with the education that they both need and deserve,” said Tilley,