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Delevan Drive Elementary School

Located near the Glassell Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, Delevan Drive enrolls students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The school’s philosophy is to promote student empowerment, ensure accountability, and encourage the commitment of parents, staff and students. The school has certified teachers in all its classrooms. Students are offered opportunities to engage in the performing arts, and to receive extra help if they struggle in math or reading, or are English language learners. The school also encourages students to serve others through a community service program.

“The school is successful because of the teachers and the arts,” says kindergarten teacher Steven Fiorillo. Many of Delevan’s educators have backgrounds in dance, music, theater and visual arts, and partner with local arts groups. For instance, a nearby orchestra recently performed at the school, and invited students and their parents to future performances at other venues for free.

Fiorillo studied theater in college and constantly uses his artistic background in the classroom. “Teaching is a performance-based profession,” he says. “Anytime you can do something that is animated and different in front of the kids instead of the same routine, it excites them and interests them.” Fiorillo often integrates theatrical activities into the school’s Open Court Reading program, so that students are not just sitting at their desks when they learn. Instead, he encourages them to pantomime and act out passages with a partner.

Teacher stability also contributes to Delevan’s success. Fiorillo, who has taught at the school for 10 years, says that on average educators stay for 20 years. As a result, parents establish meaningful relationships with school staff and volunteer with the school’s very active parent-teacher association. One year, the group trucked in snow so students could experience sledding down a hill, a first-time experience for many of them.

Delevan Drive has benefited from community support. Students in an advanced business-writing class at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business wrote grant applications that got the school $7,000 in awards. Its focus on student support and community partnerships has earned the school its share of positive attention. Delevan Drive was named a 2009 Blue Ribbon elementary school, was deemed “most effective” by a value-added analysis recently published by the Los Angeles Times, and has a achieved a very high Academic Performance Index, which California’s Department of Education uses to measure student achievement.

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