Part 1: Salem schools struggle with shifting politics, challenging demographics, lagging students

In Salem's high-poverty schools, the average student starts kindergarten not recognizing enough letters to write their own name. In the first of a five-part series, we looked at how those schools use extra federal money to try to close the gap.

Part 2: Four Corners educators fight the odds to boost student literacy

Four Corners has spent most of the past decade on Oregon's list of schools most needing to improve. Bilingual principal Phil Decker has for years pushed the district for better resources for Spanish-speaking students and worked to gather data on literacy so each student gets the help they need.

PHOTO GALLERY: Four Corners Elementary School

Part 3:  Hallman Elementary turns federal money into student success

Nearly a decade ago, the state ranked Hallman among the bottom 5% of high-poverty schools in Oregon - the only elementary school to make the list. A $3 million federal grant helped Hallman improve, but continued a trend of high turnover among principals. Now, Jessica Brenden is trying to guide the school to greater achievement.

PHOTO GALLERY: Hallman Elementary School

Part 4: With teachers staying put, Highland students make progress

Highland Elementary has one of the highest poverty rates in Salem, but has seen better performance on state assessments than most challenged local schools. Staff point to a relatively stable group of classroom teachers, and a consistent bilingual program and math curriculum to explain their performance.

PHOTO GALLERY: Highland Elementary School

Part 5: Salem-Keizer schools face 'urgency' to improve elementary education

Across Oregon, students in high-poverty elementary schools struggle where a majority of students are not native English speakers. Salem-Keizer has 13 such schools - more than any other district in the state.

Behind the scenes: How Salem Reporter brought you the story of Salem's most challenged schools

This week, we're publishing "Nine Into Six," a five-part series on the challenges Salem's high-poverty schools face getting kids who start kindergarten behind their peers across Oregon on track for middle school. Reporter Rachel Alexander takes you behind the scenes to share how this series came about and where we got our data.

About the series' name

We called the series "Nine into Six" to draw from this quote: "We have nine years of work to do and six years to do it,” said Jessica Brenden, Hallman Elementary School principal.

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