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Awards honor Arizona's outstanding teachers, schools

Educational Excellence Impact Awards 2014
January 29, 2015

Though they deserve many thanks, teachers rarely receive the praise they earn each day, said Gretchen Martinez at the second annual Educational Excellence Impact Awards, hosted by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College School Partnership Grant Programs Advisory Council, Jan. 27.

Martinez, director of legislative affairs for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, took part in the event that recognizes the hard work and dedication of more than 2,000 teachers and administrators from 59 schools across 10 Arizona school districts that are participating in the Arizona Ready-for-Rigor (AZRfR) Project, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund grant.

“The focus of this grant from day one was to make sure every classroom deserves an effective teacher, led by an effective principal, supported by effective superintendents and district offices,” said Pam Santesteban, associate director of the AZRfR Project, who emceed the event at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. “Those educators are the people who are assembled in this room today as we celebrate what is great about education in Arizona.”

Schools were honored in four categories, with the winner and three finalists for each award determined by state, district and school-wide data; grant and school evaluations; and written submissions from the leadership teams within the grant districts implementing TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement.

The Advisory Council is composed of representatives from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona Governor’s Office, Arizona Department of Education, and teachers, principals and district administrators from partnering grants.

Governor's Award

“The teachers at these schools have shown that their individual effects can have a positive impact school-wide, shaping a bright future for all students,” said Martinez, who presented the Governor’s Award to schools with outstanding teachers based on value-added, performance-based student growth.

Scoring for each school was determined through the growth from the 2013 and 2014 school years in three measurements: TAP teacher evaluations, or SKR (Skills, Knowledge and Responsibilities) scores; teacher value-added scores, which is compiled through student achievement for the students the individual teachers instruct; and school-wide, value-added scores for the entire school.

Whitman Elementary School received the Governor’s Award for increasing the Mesa Public School’s teacher and school-wide, value-added scores by 35 percent from the previous school year. The other finalists for the Governor’s Award were: Tsaile Public School from the Chinle Unified School District; Rice Elementary School from San Carlos Unified School District; and Encanto Elementary School from the Osborn School District.

Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College Award

“The central work of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is to not just prepare teachers, but having them be so successful they will not leave teaching,” said Mari Koerner, dean of the college. “It takes an entire community to prepare a teacher, so we’re grateful to all of you.”

Deer Valley Middle School from the Deer Valley Unified School District received the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Award for its strong commitment and dedication to the implementation the TAP System.

The finalists were: Village Meadows from the Deer Valley Unified School District, Whitman Elementary and Encanto Elementary School.

These schools were selected by the Executive Council based on written submissions from the leadership teams at the participating grant schools, utilizing data and narrative examples of how the school culture improved through the application of the TAP System.

Superintendent’s Award

The Superintendent’s Award is presented to schools that have shown the most significant growth from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014 as based on the State Department of Education’s A-F Letter Grades system. These are not the highest performing schools, but those grant schools that improved the most during the past school year.

“I think growth is the most important measure because that’s what we ask kids to do every day and over the course of their educational career,” said Jennifer Johnson, deputy superintendent of programs and policy at the Arizona Department of Education. “So for us as a system, whether it’s a classroom or district or state level, it’s about constant improvement. “

Increasing its letter grade score an astonishing 43 points, from a “C” in 2012-2013 to an “A” in 2013-2014, earned Encanto Elementary School from the Osborn School District the Superintendent’s Award. The finalists were: Whitman Elementary from Mesa Public Schools; Rice Elementary from the San Carlos Unified School District; and Coolidge High School from the Coolidge Unified School District.

TAP Director’s Award

In a special honor, the Chinle Unified School District on the Navajo Nation received the TAP Director’s Award for its leadership team being a model of excellence not just for other grant schools and districts, but also AZRfR staff. “Chinle is a district that has taught our grant team the art of persistence and reflection,” said Arizona TAP Director Ann Nielsen.

“I want to thank ASU and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College with our partnership,” said Chinle superintendent Quincy Natay, whose seven schools have been in the project since 2011-2012. “Being in the district for several years, I realize the positive impact it has made in our district, especially with the collaboration and the professionalism it’s creating in our district.”