April 27, 2012
For Immediate Release
Mount Olive Middle School Wins National Honor
Designated 2012 National School of Change
Budd Lake, NJ—The Mount Olive Township Schools announced today that the Mount Olive Middle School has been awarded the “2012 National School Change Award.” The award, presented by the National Principals Leadership Institute is bestowed each year upon six schools across the United States that have significantly improved for the better. This is the only award of its kind. In the first twelve years of this award, 250 finalists and 72 awardees were selected from 45 states and two Canadian provinces. Mount Olive Middle School is the only school to win this award in New Jersey for 2012.
The National Principals Leadership Institute recognizes that “significant school change (for the better) is not easy to achieve and, quite simply, we want to recognize those schools (and school districts) that have been able to earn this distinction. We are also conducting some important research about how these schools were able to be successful.” All nominated schools are measured against sixteen specific “change” criteria. Schools must provide documentation and data to support their quest for this prestigious award. Each submission is reviewed by a team of 10-12 judges, including teachers, principals, superintendents, professors, former awardees, and other proponents of educational improvement.
The dimensions used to determine the recipients of the National School Change Award include: How meaningful is the change? Is it substantial rather than superficial?; How deep and broad is the change? Is it systemic rather than isolated?; How is the change focused? Is it student centered and focused on teaching and learning?; and How is it measured? Is it solution or outcome oriented?” The final criteria requires schools to demonstrate a multiyear increase in achievement among all students as measured by in-school assessments, state assessments, promotion rates and other measures of improved student performance.
“I have visited several hundred middle schools over the course of my career,” said Larrie Reynolds, Superintendent. “There is no doubt in my mind that Mount Olive Middle School is the very best middle school I have ever visited. In every category of quality, it exceeds expectations.”
“Mount Olive Middle School students are proving that when we set high standards and provide high levels of support, students are able to achieve at record levels. Given the numerous measures of improved academic performance, it appears that the jury is in. Higher standards lead to better results.”
Over the past six years, Mount Olive Middle School students have steadily produced improved results. The increased achievements can be attributed to the systematic use of data to measure and monitor student progress, character-building activities, and dramatically increased expectations and accountability for students, teachers, parents and administrators. As a result, what had been above average results have been transformed into extremely high level performances. In the last two years, Mt. Olive Middle School has been listed among the top rated middle schools in Morris County, based on the percentage of students who score “Advanced Proficient” on New Jersey’s high-stakes ASK exams. Among schools with similar or lower socioeconomic demographics, it ranked third in the county.
Among the many changes that have contributed to students’ improved performance and productivity was eliminating the grade of “D,” which occurred two years ago. Despite the fact that students needed to work harder in order to receive a passing grade, failure rates plummeted. After the first year, the number of grades that students earned below 70% dropped by 59.5% (from 2132 to 863), the number of individual students who failed one or more major subject plummeted 81% (from 207 to 56) and the number of students who earned honor roll or high honor roll increased by 33.1% (from 1244 to 1656).
These outstanding results can be attributed to a comprehensive action plan that was designed to provide unprecedented levels of support for students, parents and faculty. Students have benefited from expanded intervention services, tutoring provided before, during and after school, opportunities to re-take or re-do failed assessments and assignments for partial credit and new recognition programs that celebrate improved achievement. Parents enjoy the automatic notification system that was created to inform them immediately of any assignment that was not submitted or any assessment that was not passed. Teachers now work together in Professional Learning Communities to plan, implement and assess common units of instruction that are based on rigorous standards.
“During the last seven years, we have worked diligently to improve the quality and character of the programs and services offered to our students. As a result, the changes in our school have been substantive and are evident in everything we do and every decision that we make,” said Dr. Tracey Severns, Mount Olive Middle School principal. “We have decided that “failure is not an option” and we are willing to do “whatever it takes” to ensure that students succeed. It is deeply gratifying to see that all of our hard work has paid off. Students are achieving at record levels and nearly every measure of our school’s performance has improved. Our school has gone from good to great!”
Since 1998, the National Principals Leadership Institute (NPLI) has provided an exemplary leadership experience for more than 3,000 educational leaders from 45 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and three Canadian provinces. In 2000, NPLI created the National School Change Award (NSCA) to recognize schools that significantly change for the better.
The 2012 National School Change Award Winners are:
Minor High School
Mt. Olive Middle School
Sam Houston Middle School
Whale Branch Middle School
Winterboro High School
Contact: Larrie Reynolds