University of Pittsburgh School of Education

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Carol Wooten - Impacting Communities Through Education

Published on 6/18/2012 7:00:00 AM

For Propel Schools Superintendent Carol Wooten, the past 10 years of her life have been intertwined simultaneously with the life of Propel Schools, an experimental set of charter schools in Pennsylvania. And since her work with Propel began, the schools have succeeded beyond her—and her community’s—dreams, attaining the highest levels of student achievement among Pennsylvania public school districts that serve high-poverty areas. This accomplishment, Wooten feels, was supported through her studies at the School of Education and working with its faculty.

“I think what I do most often is call upon professors and administrators at Pitt to give advice or work with them. A complete resource as partnership with us—that’s probably what I would most likely use as a positive example,” Wooten says. “I was able to have a network of colleagues that grew out of my experience at Pitt and that has served me well, as I could count on them when necessary.”

Wooten attests that her school has had a positive effect on Propel students, their families, and their communities. In fact, Propel, with a student population that is two-thirds African American, is outperforming state averages in both math (by nine percentage points) and reading (by four percentage points), according to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). Propel’s economically disadvantaged students perform better than the typical student, regardless of race or family affluence, among other school districts in the region, according to PSSA.”

“We have given students and families high-performing options where they elsewhere might not have had them, meaning excellent test scores, wonderful arts programs, and great parent and family satisfaction,” she says. In addition, all of the students participate in service learning, and the high school students must complete 160 hours of service prior to graduating. Lastly, Propel has after-school programs involving academics, the arts, and enrichment. “Providing this high-quality opportunity for the community has been the most rewarding thing in my life professionally.”

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