Monday, March 22, 2010

NEA Foundation Celebrates Efforts in Hamilton County to Improve Student Achievement

Hamilton County’s work serves as national model for the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative

WASHINGTON, DC  (March 22, 2010) --  An $8.5 million effort to boost achievement for Hamilton County middle school students is being recognized and celebrated as a national model by the NEA Foundation at an event in Chattanooga, Tenn. today.  The effort began in 2004, when the Foundation awarded a $2.5 million, five-year grant to a partnership of the Hamilton County Education Association, Hamilton County schools, and the Public Education Foundation. The efforts have led to improvement in student test scores and classroom instruction.

The initiative, named Middle Schools for a New Society, initially focused on strategies to improve student achievement in five of the county’s schools, but it was expanded to all of the district’s 21 middle schools with an additional $6 million in support from the Hamilton County-based Lyndhurst Foundation.

Hamilton County was the first to receive funding through the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative and it has served as a model for success as the initiative has expanded to districts nationwide. 

“Five years ago, we selected Hamilton County as the first pilot site for what would become our signature approach to transforming schools,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. 

“Through the work here, we learned that by developing and strengthening partnerships among local education associations, school districts, and community organizations, we can create a powerful force for improving student performance and, at the same time, create a catalyst for systemic reform.”

The hallmark of the initiative has been the collaboration and creation of networks of teachers and principals from within and across the middle schools in the district to share strategies and practices to improve what students are learning in the classroom.

Through these networks, principals, math teachers, literacy teachers, and others meet on a monthly basis to gather new information, share ideas and take the benefits back to their schools.

Educators not only share successful classroom strategies and lessons. They also learn to use data more effectively to target specific needs of students and monitor their progress on a continuous basis. 

Also through the initiative, instructional coaches have been integrated into all middle schools.  These expert teachers provide guidance on best practices and reinforcement to their peers on a daily basis.

Over the life of the initiative, these strategies have helped lead to improvement in student performance for the county’s middle schools. 

From 2005 to 2009, the percentage of middle school students passing the state’s reading exam increased from 84 percent to 90 percent. Also, the percentage of middle school students scoring advanced in mathematics increased from 30 percent to 45 percent during this period.

The successful strategies and lessons learned are now being implemented in five other districts selected to take part in the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative.“The lessons learned in Hamilton County have already begun to have a national impact as the Foundation expanded this initiative to three new sites in February: Columbus, Ohio; Durham, North Carolina; and Springfield, Massachusetts.  This body of knowledge also contributes to our existing work in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Seattle, Washington,” said Sanford.  “We will continue to draw on this important work as we build on what we learned over the past five years and apply it in new settings.” 

About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives.We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit www.neafoundation.org for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our blog.

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