Beat the Odds

Why Some Schools With Latino Children Beat the Odds and Others Don't

March 2006

In 2001, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy released its landmark report, Five Shoes Waiting to Drop on Arizona's Future, which identified one "shoe" as a huge hole in Arizona's educational system — the lack of educational success of Latinos. The report reminded Arizonans that Latinos are fast becoming the majority in public schools and that they suffer from low achievement gains and graduation rates. The report also reminded Arizonans that education is the key to prosperity — for individuals, for families and for the State of Arizona as a whole. Without a successful turn around in Latino education, Arizona simply will not make a successful transition to the 21st Century economy. This awareness eventually led to a new study — “Beat the Odds” — research on high performing Latino schools.

Using the methodology of Jim Collins from his book Good to Great, Mary Jo Waits and her research team, under the sponsorship of the Center for the Future of Arizona and the Morrison Institute, found 12 elementary and middle schools in Arizona — schools whose students are mostly Latino and mostly poor — that are "beating the odds" on reading and math scores.

With Jim Collins' active involvement, the research team found six keys to success that can translate into broader messages for education policy and strategy. These are clear bottom line, ongoing assessment, strong, steady principal, collaborative solutions, stick with the program and built to suit. Describing this study as the "second wave" of education reform, the authors have recommended a package of policy changes and strategic initiatives aimed at engaging policy makers and empowering educators with the tools and skills necessary to help students succeed. Key among the recommendations is the creation of leadership programs for principals and teachers, with the goal of sharpening analytic skills and creating collaborative environments that allow effective, knowledge-based and customized education within schools and classrooms. The study calls for the creation of a dissemination mechanism to bring "best practices" into every school in Arizona.


Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University
School of Public Affairs | College of Public Programs
Mail Code: 4220, 411 North Central Avenue, Suite 900, Phoenix, Arizona 85004-0692
Phone: 602-496-0900 Fax: 602-496-0964