Successful Students

Progress Earns Virginia Schools Full Accreditation

There’s a room inside Virginia’s Westwood Middle School where the walls are covered with the smiles of students, posed in their best clothes for the school photographer, their eyes looking straight at the teachers and administrators who meet weekly under their gaze.

“We’re in there talking about Christie, and Susan, and Sally, and Tom,” said Westwood principal Christie Dawson. “We’re not just talking about data note-cards – but about children.”

The new “data room” is just one of the ways Westwood, a 370-student school in Danville, Virginia, near the North Carolina border, has embraced a new focus on student achievement, driven by the individual gains by each student. It’s also one of the reasons that Westwood, as well as two other Virginia middle schools, earned the prize of full local, state and federal accreditation last year.

At Westwood, it’s all about data these days – but not “collecting data just to collect it. It’s about using the data in real time,” Dawson says. That means weekly student assessments, which can be as quick as three questions, and specific small-group remediation. “Nothing beats a teacher sitting down in a small circle with four students,” says Dawson. And, of course, it also includes the weekly grade-level meetings in Westwood’s data room. “If Christie is successful in social studies, but really struggling in math, there are things that I can learn from the social studies teacher on how to be successful with that student.”

That kind of collaborative spirit is a hallmark of the NEA Priority Schools Campaign, which celebrates the joint work of educators, administrators and community members in improving this country’s lowest-achieving schools. From Connecticut to California, NEA members and their partners are getting results.

At Westwood, 92 percent of students passed Virginia’s reading test this year and 94 passed in math – up from 65 percent just two years ago. Last year, for the first time, Westwood made Adequate Yearly Progress under the terms of the No Child Left Behind law.

In addition to Westwood, Lucy Addison Middle School in Roanoke, Virginia, also achieved accreditation through the use of teacher teams that disaggregate data and differentiate instruction. And, at Cradock Middle School in Portsmouth, Virginia, shared decision-making and an increase in parental involvement – an important goal of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign – has contributed to significant increases in student achievement.

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