Value-Added Achievement Awards, 2009First Place, West Division, Elementary Schools

Flora Childres, Principal
3587 Boeingshire Road
Memphis, TN 38116
Memphis Schools

Recipe For Success:

As an educator for more than 15 years, at both middle-class and low-income schools, I knew that the best teachers are those with a heart for children, believing that every student can succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. More than anything else, that’s what I look for in any teacher that I hire for the school year.

When Winchester Elementary was Fresh Started by the district, I immediately began to change the culture of the school. My focus was that children have to feel good about themselves before they could feel good about their academics. I believe that if you don’t feel good about yourself or what you are doing, you will not be successful. That is my focus. Everyone belongs somewhere and regardless of your situation you can achieve and become successful.

To show the community that we were invested in their children, the staff helped clean and paint Winchester. In August, before school started, we also walked the community to visit the homes and neighborhoods of students. We also hosted a cookout on school grounds. I told the teachers, who were weary at first, that the reason for reaching out is: “To teach the children, you have to know them.” Winchester Elementary has an open-door policy. Parents are always welcome. We have set aside three days a week for conferencing and classroom visits for anytime of the day. We also have monthly meetings for our parents to discuss parenting issues, school issues, or discipline issues.

There are several key management practices that have a great impact on our school learning environment.

First, we begin the day with teachers standing in their doors to greet the students as they arrive on their perspective hallway. This sets the tone for a warm and caring environment and leads into the morning meeting where each teacher plans initial activities that acknowledge all students and ensure they are greeted by one another and get an understanding of what their day will be like.

Second is Winchester’s Leadership Team. I believe that Winchester’s Leadership Team has been one of the most influential practices because their strong commitment and dedication to the mission is above reproach. Our leadership team consists of leaders who set the example, seek responsibilities, and take responsibility for our actions. We spend 60 to 75% of our time in classrooms observing to provide effective feedback, modeling, working with small groups, and assisting in any capacity that is needed to ensure that teachers and students are successful. We continuously look at data from assessments and determine next steps to meet student’s needs to focus on student achievement. We employ teacher leaders in the school as well as students, parents, and other community members and encourage them to share in leadership responsibilities to show our value for all stakeholders in making decisions about the successful operation of the school.

Last but not least, our Professional Learning Communities. Our Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) is where teachers work collaboratively to look at data, plan instruction, discuss upcoming events, and focus on the mission as a whole. They have been very influential in the overall success of student achievement in our school. Teachers utilize data from the district mandated Discovery Assessment, TCAP, DIBELS, Stanford Math, America’s Choice Navigator, and AIMS Web. This data allows the teachers to create their small groups, differentiate instruction, and to create intervention for students.

Our grade teams meet at least 2-3 times weekly during their common planning time in PLC’s to share ideas about best practices for student success as well as management strategies and classroom environment ideas that provide assistance to each other to ensure success in all areas. Our teachers assist each other in classrooms with environment issues as well as implementation strategies because we believe that it truly takes all of us to have a successful school.