“I’m not often at a loss for words, but that pretty much did it,” responded Perry Township Schools Superintendent Patrick Mapes upon learning that the district had won $50,000 in addition to being presented its first Award of Excellence for Educator Effectiveness from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.
The award, presented Oct. 11 at Southport Elementary School, recognizes the district’s track record of developing teacher talent as a cornerstone of improving student achievement. Unlike most schools, each Perry Township school has teacher leaders who share instructional duties with administrators, guide learning meetings, tailor strategies to the specific needs of the teachers and students and provide ongoing support.
With more than two decades of on-the-ground expertise, the institute works with schools, states and universities to create structures for teacher leadership, support, training and online tools that put educator effectiveness at the forefront of school improvement. Its initiatives impact more than 250,000 educators and 2.5 million students.
When Lowell Milken, chairman and founder of the institute, took the podium, no one knew the honor included the cash prize. As he instructed some students to hold up placards indicating a $5,000 award, the audience of state dignitaries, district officials, faculty, students and community leaders gave a rousing applause of approval, which grew tenfold when a zero was added to the figure, making it $50,000.
“Perry Township Schools is a shining example of the tremendous achievements that can be made when you develop and maintain top educators,” Milken said. “The quality of a district or school cannot exceed the quality of its educators. I commend Perry Township’s leaders for their courage and conviction in making educator effectiveness the cornerstone of their efforts to make sustained and meaningful improvement in student achievement. Your work as a district is most deserving of this national recognition and sets a standard for others to emulate. Perry Township excels above its peers.”
“This is an extraordinary honor for Perry Township Schools,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, a member of the Indiana State Board of Education and CEO of Project Lead the Way, which develops science, technology, English and math curricula for elementary, middle and high schools.
“Teachers inspire and believe in their students; teachers change lives. The most fundamental part of society is education. The work of a teacher matters today and always. They have a tremendous responsibility.”
With more than 16,400 students, the district, partnered with the institute since 2010, is challenged to educate a diverse student body as 27 percent are English learner students. Last spring’s WIDA assessment, which measures multilingual readers, assessed 47 percent of the English learning students at a reading Level 5, the most proficient level.
This represents a 21 percent increase over the previous year. Graduation rates have also surpassed state averages, increasing from 92.3 percent in 2014-15 to 95.2 percent in 2016-17.
“The institute’s framework is a game-changer for our district,” Mapes said. “It confirms that success is achieved when educators are trained to adapt their teaching methods to reach children regardless of nationality, socioeconomic background, learning disabilities and personal challenges. NIET has empowered our educators to give their very best and be a catalyst for students to do their best.”