Clinton Elementary School in Anderson County, Tennessee, was among five schools across the country named as a finalist for the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching‘s Founder’s Award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize and the opportunity to win the grand prize of $50,000.
The award recognizes one school each year for exceptional implementation of NIET’s principles to build educator excellence and advance student success, and the winner will be announced at the NIET national conference in Dallas on February 29.
The award was created by NIET’s founder, Lowell Milken, in 2008 to honor one school each year for exceptional implementation of NIET’s principles to build educator excellence and advance student success.
“To prepare students for a bright future, we must create powerful opportunities to attract, develop, motivate and retain talented educators. Clinton Elementary School fosters a dynamic culture of high expectations, deep reflection and continuous growth among educators that empowers students to develop these same qualities,” said Milken. “We commend Principal Jenna Sharp, her team and Clinton City Schools Director Kelly Johnson for their commitment to maximizing the potential for all.”
Clinton Elementary was cited for the growth achieved in math, reaching the highest level of growth in numeracy in 2023, said NIET’s chief executive officer, Dr. Joshua Barnett.
Clinton Elementary School is located about 30 minutes northwest of Knoxville. The school serves 541 students ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade. Clinton Elementary School began its partnership with NIET in 2020 while identifying strategies for accelerating student learning through the pandemic.
Since then, the partnership has expanded as the school has set goals to increase teacher effectiveness and deepen student engagement in learning.
In both 2022 and 2023, Clinton Elementary School received an overall rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5 in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), meaning there was significant evidence that students made more growth than expected. Clinton Elementary School also earned the highest growth score of 5 in numeracy in 2023, an increase from their rating of 3 in 2022. In addition to these improvements in student achievement, the school boasts a 97% retention rate of teachers, further contributing to a strong and stable school environment.
In 2022, Clinton City Schools was awarded a Math Implementation Grant from the Tennessee Department of Education with a focus on developing teacher leaders to help teachers improve their effectiveness with a new, high-quality math curriculum.
Clinton Elementary’s principal, Jenna Sharp, says learning goals must not be a secret. “Students need to know what they are learning and why.” She says a benefit of working with NIET is the structure and systems for “a collaborative learning environment” through professional development. Objectives are driven by “what data showed teachers and students needed.” The process is to transfer learning from leaders to teachers to students.
Sharp says teachers have responded by growing their content knowledge to deepen their understanding of the rigor that progressively mastering a standard requires.
Clinton Elementary has the benefits of community stability and very low teacher turnover. Some schools in Knox County have a transient enrollment. Teachers might lose half of their students during a school year. And inner-city schools have relatively high teacher turnover. But whatever the reasons, we are proud of Clinton Elementary’s achievement. Good luck to them in Dallas on Feb. 29. And then we’ll find out how they plan to spend their money.
Information and quotes provided by NIET. Conclusion is the writer’s.