Clover Park School District’s (CPSD) Southgate Elementary School was visited by Gov. Christine Gregoire, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist as part of the Nov. 10 Washington Education Leaders’ Tour.
Southgate is actively engaged in school improvement efforts and is utilizing a “turnaround” process as a result of being in Step 5 of improvement for failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In addition, CPSD is part of the state’s Summit District Improvement Initiative, where an entire district commits to implement comprehensive change to improve achievement.
This school year, Southgate has undergone a significant restructuring of staff and instructional programs. The district and the Clover Park Education Association (CPEA) worked collaboratively on the turnaround process, which operated under four specific recommendations:
- Signal the need for dramatic change with strong leadership—Southgate was appointed a new principal, Charlotte Clouse, who worked to establish partnerships with the community;
- Maintain a consistent focus on improving instruction—staff members adopted new educational initiatives and programs including the implementation of Guided Language Acquisition Design; adoption of the Kids at HOPE philosophy; the establishment of an intervention specialist; and better funding of the English Language Learner program;
- Make visible improvements early in the school turnaround process—Clouse worked with her staff to address low morale; oversaw the reorganization the main office to be more welcoming to families and visitors; and partnered with the Clover Park Rotary to complete a landscaping beautification project, which included the installation of new benches and playground equipment; and
- Build a committed staff—CPSD and CPEA worked with Clouse to reassign staff to bring new energy, thinking and commitment to the academic performance of Southgate’s students. Staff reassignments were voluntary in a process that was described as “heartfelt” by Clouse. Additionally, the school hired a certificated art and PE teacher to integrate math and reading into the curriculum. Clouse also worked to build pride in her staff so that they are able to meet goals and raise student achievement.
Gregoire, Dorn and Lindquist toured the school and met with teachers to discuss successes, challenges and concerns related to current state and federal educational policies.
In addition to Southgate, the Education Leaders’ Tour also visited Dimmitt Middle School in Renton and the Tacoma School of the Arts. Like Southgate, these schools exemplify the type of innovation and external partnerships that are called for in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Initiative.
States will be competing for $4 billion in Race to the Top grants. The most well-positioned states to receive the federal grants must demonstrate methods to improve student learning by focusing efforts in four key areas. Those key areas are using quality standards and assessments, supporting effective instruction and leadership, using data to link achievement, programs and practices, and focusing on low-performing schools.
In July, Gregoire announced she had asked Dorn and Washington State Board of Education Chair Mary Jean Ryan to join her as co-chairs of the leadership team charged with ensuring Washington state receives a Race to the Top federal grant. The Obama Administration is requiring each grant submittal be signed by the state’s governor, state superintendent and education board chair.