Like many schools around the country, Roxbury, MA’s Orchard Gardens was plagued by violence, lack of organization, and falling test scores.
Then school principal Andrew Bott (the 6th in seven years) came along and changed everything.
He immediately fired the school’s many security guards, and invested that money into art teachers, programs, and facilities.
“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”
But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.
The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.
“We have our occasional, typical adolescent … problems,” Bott said. “But nothing that is out of the normal for any school.”
Many of Orchard Gardens’ students say the changes have improved their grades and self-confidence, and strengthened teacher-student bonds.
Thoughts on this story?
Should bolstering arts programs be central to transforming our nation’s failing schools?
What other reforms are needed to improve education in America?
Sound off below!