The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in Perry Township Schools, Indiana, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 NIET Founder's Award and its $50,000 grand prize. NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken and CEO Dr. Candice McQueen surprised the school at a virtual celebration during the NIET National Conference, attended by over 1,200 educators and leaders from across the country.
Douglas MacArthur exemplifies NIET's work with schools to develop school and teacher leaders, collaborate on successful strategies, and provide feedback and support to peers that address teacher and student needs. The implementation of these practices at high levels – boosted by the support and commitment of Perry Township Schools under Superintendent Pat Mapes – has made Douglas MacArthur a proud "A" state-rated school where teachers continuously analyze data, challenge their thinking, grow as learners, and get results.
"Douglas MacArthur educators set high expectations, and create the structures for collaboration, support, and reflection to reach them. In turn, students are adopting those same qualities, taking charge of their learning, and becoming independent thinkers," NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. "I congratulate Principal Star Hardimon for making these practices a reality in every classroom, and to Superintendent Pat Mapes for his long-standing dedication to supporting every teacher and student in his district. This is what it takes to achieve excellence for all."
For 20 years, NIET has partnered with schools, districts, states, and universities to ensure all students have effective educators. NIET has served more than 9,000 schools and has impacted more than 275,000 teachers and 2.75 million students.
NIET's partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention. Schools including Douglas MacArthur have continued to advance during the pandemic through the use of NIET's new tools and resources to accommodate virtual instruction, support from expert leaders and trainers, and access to a large network of educators united around shared learning. The Founder's Award was created by Lowell Milken to honor one school annually for exceptional implementation of NIET's principles to build educator excellence and advance student success.
"When we equip and support teachers, students win. As we look back on this past year, it has never been clearer that excellent teachers are the difference-maker," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "Principal Hardimon and her team are focused on aligning their teaching with high-quality content and the real needs of the classroom. The proof is in their results and efforts to go further every year."
Douglas MacArthur, located south of Indianapolis, is among Perry's 17 schools and serves 880 students. Like its fellow campuses, MacArthur experienced a significant shift in demographics due to an influx of refugees, mostly from Myanmar. The school's English Learner student population has increased from 24% to over 50%, and its eligibility of students for free or reduced-price lunch has jumped from 53% to 73%. Hardimon, who became principal during the transition, spearheaded the change in how educators engaged students, delivered instruction, and used data to inform decisions.
"NIET's structure of formal leadership has helped me peel away some of my own feelings from having to always have the answers to posing questions to the team that lead to realistic solutions, growth, and learning,” said Hardimon. "My leadership has grown through NIET and the support from our central office. It's hard for me to think about where I would be as a building leader without these structures. NIET's model allows me to provide the support for my teachers and receive the support from the district to help kids and pull it all together."
The whole-team approach has resulted in students performing well above state averages in English language arts (56%) and math (65%) compared to the state average of 48% in both subjects, according to 2018-19 data – the most recent available. Similarly, the 2019-20 WIDA 2.0 assessment shows that more than 55% of English learners are exceeding targets to meet the state's long-term goals for language development, compared to the state average of over 30%.
A credit to the school's success is the inclusion of special area teachers – such as gym, music, and art – in core subject professional development sessions to enhance student understanding across curricula. Another is an annual focus on raising achievement for students in the bottom 25% of each grade. The instructional leadership team holds data conferences with those students to establish goals and steps to meet them; serves as mentors; and celebrates their achievements with events throughout the year. Their efforts have paid off, with 53% of those students meeting growth targets in English language arts compared to the state average of 34%, and 40% meeting targets in math compared to the state average of 17%.
Douglas MacArthur Elementary School was selected among four finalists throughout the U.S., with each receiving $10,000: Michael Anderson School (Avondale Elementary School District, Arizona); North DeSoto High School (DeSoto Parish Schools, Louisiana); and Prairie View Elementary School (Goshen Community Schools, Indiana).
Founder's Award recipients are selected by NIET based on their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on real-time needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and leverage teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth.
To access a recording of today's event, a profile video, images of Douglas MacArthur, and more information about NIET, visit the NIET newsroom.
“In every endeavor, people make the difference, and just one person has the power to make a profound difference in the lives of so many people.” - Lowell Milken