What if low-performing urban public schools were given the opportunity to operate under complete autonomy? Elaine Swafford argues that any school defined as low-performing by mandated state testing could move from the bottom 5% of this list to the top 5%—and sustain that success—in just 9 months if given this opportunity, Three years ago, the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy was both on the brink of closure and the State Low Performing List. Today, CGLA is off that list and thriving, a clear example of what can happen when educators jump out of the boxes drawn around them by our school systems.


About Elaine

In July 2012, Dr. Elaine Swafford took the helm as the Director of the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, the first all girls public charter STEM school in the state of Tennessee. She and her team are in the fourth year of overseeing a school turnaround and are meeting expectations of leading exceptional gains in student progress and academic achievement. After reaching the brink of closure prior to her arrival, the school has now earned Reward School Status two consecutive years. She uses her experience, energy, and passion to inspire and motivate young people, while having a positive impact on the community. She considers herself as a “Social Impact Specialist.”