International ProjectsLindamood-BellSeeing Stars

School Turnaround: High school in Jamaica celebrates success.

School Turnaround: High school in Jamaica celebrates success.

Denham Town High School in Kingston, Jamaica recently shared the successful results of a collaborative, year-long effort that sought to transform their desperately challenged inner-city school.

In 2021, the school was identified as the worst-performing school in its district.  The school faced numerous obstacles including high levels of crime and violence.  It had very low literacy rates, with a large number of 7th-9th graders who couldn’t read at the basic school level. 

A desperate cry for help resulted in the formation of a coalition tasked with turning the school around. The Denham Town High Stakeholders Group was formed in 2023. It included members from governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, local and international donor organizations, school leaders, and parents. 

Since the Stakeholders’ first meeting in March of 2023, school leaders shared that significant progress has been made in key areas such as literacy, student attendance and behavior, leadership, and vocational skills training. 

The coalition took a very strategic approach to addressing literacy. More than half of the school's teachers were trained in the Seeing Stars program through a partnership between Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes and Stakeholder member Creative Language Based Learning (CLBL). 

Since 2017, Lindamood-Bell has trained more than 350 teachers from 151 Early Childhood, Infant, Primary, Secondary, and Special Education schools across 13 Parishes, impacting an estimated 19,000 students on the island. 

At Denham Town High School, 26 teachers have been trained to instruct struggling students in Seeing Stars.  Instruction focuses on developing the sensory-cognitive skills of phonemic awareness and symbol imagery, which are critical for phonics, sight word acquisition, and reading fluency.  What started with literacy camps in the summer has turned into a year-round Literacy Lab at the school. 

“The Seeing Stars program has shined a new light on our students,” shared Special Education Teacher Johanna Peart. 

Cohort teacher Monique Green commented in a recent article in the Jamaica Gleaner that the literacy program has been a saving grace for their school. “We have seen students move from ground zero to knowing the letters and sounds of the alphabet.” She shared that students can now decode words and identify vowel sounds, consonants, and multi-syllable words. Some students are now reading sentences and short stories. 

Earlier this year, Lindamood-Bell for Schools’ Director of Development, Dave Kiyvyra, visited Jamaica to check in on the school projects, including Denham Town High School. “It is really amazing to get to see the impact this partnership is having in Jamaica and the enthusiasm and skill of the teachers who have been trained and supported. We are getting to work in exactly the schools that need us most, and with the kids that need us the most,” he said. 

Those involved in the Stakeholders Group are now planning to transform their coordinated interventions into a model that can be replicated in similar schools across Jamaica. 

Learn more about this successful international school project.