Ed Emmett, executive director of Positive Outcomes Charter School, helped transform Partnership Zone process into an opportunity for innovation, opening the door to adoption of the Big Picture Learning school model. The philosophy integrates real-world experiences (internships) into the students’ learning. Test scores went up as a result, and more importantly, students are more engaged in their classwork and gain a better perspective on their education.
“Pushing the envelope means pushing past barriers that others fear questioning.”
Executive Director, Positive Outcomes Charter School
In his own words…
Excellent public education is important because it is crucial to provide all students the greatest possibility of success in the future. Without a quality education, students will not be able to maximize their potential in the future.
I became involved in education because I graduated from a public school system that sent me off to college reading at a 6th grade level and writing at a 4th grade level. I had to work so hard to just catch up that I became determined to make a difference. Everyone should graduate with a chance to be successful. Simply passing students on is not good enough. I started as an ELA teacher because I had one good ELA teacher in 12 years. I wanted to find a way to make ELA fun and exciting for every student.
The work that I and others are doing is radically changing outcomes for students at Positive Outcomes. We are changing instructional programs and outcomes for high need students, and as a result, our school is raising the achievement for all of our students to levels that many outside of our program did not think were possible. Others can learn about the different ways we meet the individual needs of our students while preserving high expectations from everyone.
Our school has been able to integrate real-world internships, community based learning, a new aligned curriculum, advisory support structures and post-secondary planning while increasing academic outcomes for our students. We are taking a unique approach to several graduation requirements that enable our school to focus on core academic programs. Our school was able to double our proficiency rates in two years. Our school was able to see 48% of our students increase a performance level in Reading and 52% of our students increase a performance level in Math.
Our approach is innovative and unique because we have created a new school design that integrated the work of six outside partners focused on our students. We have integrated each partner’s programs seamlessly to create a new model program. Everyone was concerned about finding ways to get each partner working together; however, we were able to have each partner working together and supporting our program.
I am excited about the opportunities the Partnership Zone has provided to our school because we were able to complete redesign and rethink our school program after 15 years of operation. The opportunity was at first not welcomed by our school community; however, the entire team (parents, students, faculty and board) were able to see tremendous promise in the redesign of our program. The entire team was able to establish priorities, develop high quality programs, and focus 100% of our work on improving outcomes for our students. I am not responsible for what we have done, our entire team worked together. They all deserve recognition, not me.
My proudest moment as a champion of education happens every year during the Positive Outcomes Charter School graduation. We ask our graduates, “Where would you be if you did not come to our school?” Each year we have over half of our students tell us that they would have dropped out without us. Each year we have a few students who feel that they would be dead or in jail without us. Our graduation night is the culmination of all of the work we do all year, all of the work we do as educators. No test or assessment can measure what it means when we save students from failure, when we help them graduate. Nothing can surpass that moment for me as an educator.
If one thing could be changed about Delaware’s education system, it would be that charter schools are seen as an asset. There are charter schools doing innovative and unique work across the state, yet this isn’t always recognized.
Pushing the envelope means taking chances to help students. It means pushing past barriers that others fear questioning. It means doing what is best for students and not adults. It means making a difference for students that others have given up on or ignored.