From 'Rock Bottom' to the Top

By Stacey Hollenbeck

When Sandra Jimenez became principal of Langley Park-McCormick Elementary in 2002, she hoped to turn the failing school into a valuable resource for the low-income, Hispanic community in Hyattsville, Md.

She started by filling her office with squash.

Unfortunately, the food giveaway fell on the same day as a visit from her district supervisor, who looked at the office brimming with gourds and said, “This is ridiculous.”

But Langley Park-McCormick had reached rock bottom. It was the lowest-performing school in the region and the second- lowest in Prince George’s County, a district with more than 200 schools. Only 8.9 percent of third-graders were proficient in reading.

“We knew if we kept doing what they were doing before, it obviously wasn’t going to work,” Jiminez says. “All we could do was stay the same. There was no down to go. We immediately started doing things that were ‘out of the box.’”

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