K12 education glass morph image for the Jefferson County Case Study

From CSI to a Top 5 School: Erwin Middle, a Jefferson County Success Story

Erwin Middle School in Jefferson County, Alabama, needed a champion. They found that in Dr. Angela Bush’s leadership. Through a collaboration with Studer Education, Dr. Bush and her team empowered a diverse group of educators to address chronic absenteeism and low academic performance, leading to improved connections among school staff, students, guardians, and the community. This comprehensive approach helped the school achieve its first passing score on the Alabama State School Report Card in 2022-23.

From CSI to Top 5: The Success of Erwin Middle School, Jefferson County, Alabama


In 2019-2020, Erwin Middle School was in the bottom five percent in Alabama and designated as a Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) school. With 636 students, 95% on free or reduced lunch plans, the school faced low student achievement and declining attendance, worsened by the post-COVID lockdown period. District leaders aimed to implement a comprehensive strategy to improve school and student outcomes.

Everyone believed they could and would make a difference.
-Dr. Angela Bush


To drive improvements, Principal Dr. Angela Bush partnered with Studer Education and formed a diverse team of staff members, including teachers, counselors, and coaches, to lead change within Erwin Middle School.

Prioritizing Improvements:

Studer Education Leader Coach Kathy Oropallo and Dr. Bush’s team prioritized improving attendance and student grades. Chronic absenteeism had increased due to the COVID lockdown, impacting student learning both in class and online. Their first focus was to address the absenteeism issue.

Engaging with the Community:

Recognizing the need for cultural change within the school and community, Erwin Middle School’s leadership actively engaged with external organizations. They supported academic and attendance programs, established ongoing student leadership groups, and provided financial assistance to address budget deficits, significantly impacting both the social and academic well-being of the students.

Owning Improvement Goals:

Erwin Middle School took proactive measures to address chronic absenteeism, using a Studer Education template to track and report results. They reduced guardian calls from 275 to 150 in 2020-2021 and further decreased them to only 61 in 2021-2022. They encouraged school-wide ownership of student goals, engaging educators as leaders, and promoting idea sharing and celebration of successes.

Leadership Guidance:

Studer Education aided in developing a School Scorecard to identify issues and set achievement benchmarks. This scorecard tracked student grade averages, attendance, and tardiness data, with regular reviews every 30-60-90 days. Leader Huddles were introduced for school leaders to assess and make necessary adjustments, resulting in a more robust school culture, improved academic performance, and a more engaged and committed school community.


A school in crisis was turned around by a dedicated leadership team led by Principal Dr. Angela Bush who was committed to encouraging cultural change, leadership empowerment, communication improvements, and student achievement all while engaging the broader community in the success of Erwin Middle School.

900% increase Dr. Bush held a strong commitment to improve one of Alabama’s lowest-rated schools. With her leadership, the school increased community support by 900%

Partnership and Engagement In partnership with Studer Education, she built an engaged educator leadership team and increased parental involvement and student academic achievement.

Top 5 School These initiatives resulted in moving Erwin Middle School from the bottom 5% of Alabama schools to a top-rated middle school in the second-largest district in Jefferson County.

How to Lead a School Out of Low Performance: A Principal’s Success Story.

Research Article
The faces behind the numbers: pathways for strengthening student learning progress and recovery by engaging in continuous improvement.
Kathleen Oropallo, Angela Bush, & Elizabeth M. Bemiss

Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth Volume 67, 2023 - Issue 3: Learning Loss and the Covid-19 Pandemic: What we struggled with, what worked and guidance for the future

From Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth
Volume 67, 2023 – Issue 3: Learning Loss and the Covid-19 Pandemic: What we struggled with, what worked and guidance for the future 

Read the article >>

Listen to Dr. Angela Bush on the Accelerate Your Performance Podcast.

EP312: Align Behaviors with Goals and Values

In this Accelerate Your Performance podcast episode, Dr. Janet Pilcher invites Dr. Angela Bush, principal of Erwin Middle School in Birmingham, Alabama, to discuss how she has moved her school from low-performing to now the top-ranked school in the Jefferson County School District for attendance.

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