By LISA SIMPSON STRANGE
Glasgow Daily Times
A Barren County school was named as a top 10 recipient of a new state educational award last week that used criteria such as student achievement, school safety, leadership within the building and staff working conditions in the selection process.
On Nov. 7, at the 17th Annual Safe Schools, Successful Students Conference in Louisville, North Jackson Elementary was one of 10 Kentucky public schools that was singled out based on data from the Teaching, Educating, Leading and Learning (TELL) Kentucky survey, which was sent to all public school teachers and principals in the spring of 2011.
In March, Gov. Steve Beshear and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday provided the opportunity for educators to share information about the conditions in their schools and the support systems needed to do their jobs better through the TELL survey. The survey was administered by the New Teacher Center, a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders, according to a Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) press release.
Anthony Frazier, NJE principal, said representatives from KDE and the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) visited the school during one part of the evaluation process and questioned parents and teachers and then took the data back for review.
A four-step process was used to select the highest-ranking schools.
In Phase I, schools that reached a minimum 50 percent survey response rate were identified, according to information in the press release. Of 1,395 schools participating, 1,245 met the 50 percent rate. Kentucky set a first-time record for responses, with 80 percent participation from teachers and principals.
In the second phase, student test scores from the 2010-11 school year were analyzed.
In Phase III, schools were examined for details regarding their TELL survey results, as well as other criteria such as school safety.
Phase IV schools met all of the minimum criteria for selection and an advisory team reviewed these before selecting 49 schools from across the state.
One school in each of Kentucky’s State Board/Judicial districts, two at-large schools and one area technology school were awarded the Winners’ Circle honors from those 49 honorable mention schools.
Winning the award means Frazier and NJE teachers will meet with educators from the other nine schools in round table discussions about student performance and will be able to “bounce ideas” off each other about future improvements, according to Frazier.
The award winners will also be used as examples of best practices for other schools across the state.
“It means (teachers and administrators from) persistently low-achieving schools might come visit us for suggestions – for us to help out,” Frazier said.
Another reason the NJE principal was happy the school received the award was that it let his teachers be recognized by their peers and the education commissioner for a job well done.
“It’s an opportunity for my teachers to get some praise. It validates what they’re doing,” he said.
This was the first year the TELL Kentucky Survey Awards were given, Frazier said, and it’s the third year his school has been open.
From the beginning, Frazier, along with teachers and parents, have had a shared vision of the school’s future.
“The North Jackson staff have had the dedication and vision of what we wanted the school to be. Everyone is onboard with that,” he said.
The academic focus for the school is geared toward math and technology. The non-academic focus incorporates Stephen Covey’s highly-effective principles for success.
There has been high retention and low turnover of teachers at NJE the last couple of years, according to Frazier, and he credits his striving to hire the right people as one of the reasons for that.
“I do my homework before hiring a teacher,” he said.
And with North Jackson gaining between 40 to 60 new students each year since opening and the addition of six more classrooms, Frazier will get the chance to continue those hiring practices.
As far as continuing to improve student success, he tells his teachers that schools shouldn’t live and die by test scores, but make sure the emphasis is about the the students not the scores and about building relationships.
“Teach children what they need to know, the rest will come,” he said.
Frazier received a certificate, plaque and 4-feet by 6-feet school banner at the conference in recognition of the honor, which are now displayed at the school.
The Kentucky Board of Education is using the results of the 2011 TELL Kentucky Survey in policy discussions and has included a request for continuation of the initiative in its 2012-14 biennial budget request. KDE is also using the findings to guide in the assistance of persistently low-achieving schools, according to the press release.
The other nine schools recognized as TELL Award winners were: North Middletown Elementary (Bourbon Co.), South Heights Elementary (Henderson Co.), Lowe Elementary (Jefferson Co.), Adairville Elementary (Logan Co.), Benton Middle (Marshall Co.), North Oldham High (Oldham Co.), Bevins Elementary (Pike Co.), Pulaski County Area Technology Center and Rockcastle County Middle.
Visit www.education. ky.gov for more on the TELL survey results.