Dynamic keynote speaker praises HISD for its focus on literacy

Dr. Susan Szachowicz knows a thing or two about turning around troubled schools. The retired educator was still a teacher at her alma mater, Brockton High School, in 1999, when the campus was dubbed a “cesspool” by local media as one of the worst-performing schools in Massachusetts.

“Our failure rate was 75 percent in math and 44 percent in English language arts,” said the lifelong Brockton resident. “There was a real culture of low expectations.”

But by maintaining a relentless focus on literacy for the past 15 years, teachers and administrators have completely transformed the campus into a place of “high standards, high expectations, and no excuses.” It is now referred to as “a jewel of the city,” and is routinely cited as a prime example of a successful turnaround school.

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“I say Brockton High School was transformed by literacy because that’s what happened,” said Dr. Szachowicz, during her keynote speech at HISD’s Summer Leadership Institute. “You guys are so on target, to focus on reading.”

The veteran educator applauded the district for its Literacy By 3 initiative, which aims to have every child reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade.

“You guys are on the right track,” she said. “Focus on literacy relentlessly, tenaciously. It’s the power of when everyone does the same thing. You’re much bigger in size, but the issues are the same.”

You can watch her entire speech in the video above, and see the related data in the PowerPoint she references here (large file, .ppt).