Third Place, West Division, Elementary Schools

Barbara Beaver, Principal
2020 Alton Street
Memphis, TN 38106
Memphis City Schools
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Reporting on the Award: WMC3 TV

Recipe For Success:

The entire staff of Alton Elementary School is extremely elated to be recognized by the Education Consumers Foundation for our value-added gains.  We know that so many of our colleagues around the country are working passionately to close the achievement gap and develop a student population that is educated and college ready.  For this, we are humbled.

The collaboration and perseverance of the Alton staff is the heart and soul of our success.  Teachers work in extended professional learning communities where they plan instruction, choose rigorous curriculum materials, analyze data, and share perspectives about best practices that work.  As an administrator, I am diligent about allocating resources and structuring the school day to support our best practices.  We design and facilitate our professional development using Marzano’s Classroom Instruction That Works as a framework, and our sessions are filled with take-aways that are implemented in the classroom immediately.  We believe in doing a few things well so we scrutinize the many skills that students have to master and focus on the ones that will have the most impact on future learning.  Below are a few of the ingredients in ourRecipe For Success that shape our vision and support our academic program.

  • I meet weekly with our School Leadership Team and they provide direction and leadership for the staff in every aspect of school life—discipline, instruction, parental involvement, etc.  The SLT’s ideas and strategies are an integral part our growth and they help to facilitate my vision for what Alton continues to be.
  • The first two weeks of school are devoted entirely to classroom/schoolwide routines and procedures.  Curriculum and instruction skills are gradually integrated into teaching procedures and routines during the first two weeks.
  • We hold schoolwide (K-5) instructional competitions focused on reading comprehension and math skills each week—no matter what!  I publicly recognized the winners.   Our competitions are not only skill specific, but also fun and challenging for our students.
  • Support classes–music, art, and PE–have been restructured so that teachers have extended time in professional learning communities each week for intense data analysis, internal/external professional development, and lesson planning.  One-hour PLCs once a week, are not enough time for in-depth collaboration and planning.
  • Intermediate grade teachers (3-5) have common reteaching time each week, working with students that did not master skills on common assessments.   Students that have mastered weekly skills are sent to support  teachers for enrichment activities during that time.
  • Our 90-minute reading block is sacred, but it has been restructured so that students actually spendmore time reading challenging text in various genre formats. We realized that our students were not reading enough in class, so we have incorporated more guided, choral, and partner reading during the 90 minutes.
  • As an administrator, I INSPECT, WHAT I EXPECT.  Effective implementation and follow through are the only way best practices will work.  I observe classroom instruction and give teachers timely feedback on their level of implementation.  My conversations are designed to help teachers grow and to clarify any misconceptions they may have about new teaching strategies.