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Los Angeles, CA (3/15/2014)—ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, announced today that Washington Montessori School of Greensboro, N.C., is the 2014 recipient of Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. Principal Sharon Jacobs accepted the award on behalf of her school from ASCD Executive Director and CEO Dr. Gene R. Carter at the 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show during the first general session on Saturday, March 15.
Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award is designed to recognize schools that have moved beyond a vision for educating the whole child to actions that result in learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling. This award acknowledges those schools that have changed the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the development of the whole child, making sure each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Washington Montessori School is a public magnet school in the Guilford County Schools with an enrollment of more than 400 prekindergarten through fifth grade students. During the 2009-10 school year, the school was designated in North Carolina as a Priority School, with 50-60 percent of students performing at grade level, including more than 50 percent below grade level in reading. In 2010-11, after instituting changes that supported the whole child, the school became a School of Progress, with 60-80 percent of students performing at grade level.
“ASCD is pleased to honor Washington Montessori School with the 2014 Vision in Action award,” said Dr. Carter. “The dedication and persistence shown by Principal Jacobs and her staff to raising learners who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged in their school environment has contributed to tremendous growth in student achievement and school success.”
One area where Washington Montessori has excelled is in its commitment to the health of its students. As a Title I School, 78 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and many have limited access to healthy meals at home. The school has stepped up to this challenge by instituting its universal breakfast program, beginning each student’s day with a healthy breakfast free of charge.
The Washington Montessori staff also implemented systems to provide students with healthy meals even when school is not in session. Student-grown gardens have been planted on campus, enabling students to take home fresh foods for the weekend. The school also keeps the cafeteria open throughout the summer, feeding an average of 150 students each day during those months in between academic years.
“At Washington Montessori School, our staff works tirelessly to give our students a responsive learning environment where their education is self-directed and meaningful,” said Principal Jacobs. “We have a deep commitment to educating the whole child and we value curiosity, creativity, and imagination above all else as the keys to a quality education. Our students excel because our staff cares deeply about nurturing and supporting every student who walks through our doors.”
As the school’s leader, Principal Jacobs has also made a firm commitment to her students’ mental and emotional health, investing in a full-time counselor, who provides group and individual counseling sessions and has enacted an anti-bullying program.
The clothing closet is another program dedicated to making students feel supported at school. Throughout the year, the school’s social worker receives donations of clothing to give to students who may need it during school, in the case of accidents. The program can also provide gifts of new shoes, clothes, glasses, or school supplies to students in need.
Each year, Principal Jacobs and her staff prioritize student engagement by hosting the Success in Schools Kickoff, inviting students and their families to preview the fall and spring extracurricular activities. More than 250 students choose to participate in the many clubs provided by community organizations, including etiquette class, cultural dance, and sports. In addition, 100 percent of Washington Montessori’s students participate in service learning, with projects that include making pillows for local cancer patients.
The school has created additional programs to foster family and community involvement. One of these is Data with Dinner, held four or more times throughout the year, which provides students, parents, and other community stakeholders with dinner and a conversation about student progress through various data points. Two more programs are Breakfast Bunch and Lunch to Learn, in which parent-initiated topics are discussed and a relaxed atmosphere is provided for parents to express concerns, ask questions, and view presentations from faculty members and district leaders.
Multiple arrangements with local college students have been used to set up a clear pathway to future academic achievement. One such partnership is the Smart Path Tutoring program, developed with North Carolina A&T State University, in which pre-service teachers use school-collected data to help create after-school tutoring lessons specific to student needs. Students from other local universities also visit campus, providing small group lessons, mentoring, and whole class instruction.
"I am very proud of the work our educators at Washington Montessori are doing to ensure our students are not only prepared for their future academic studies and careers but also for life," said Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green. "Their dedication to the health, safety, and character development of our students is a great example of our district's goal of achieving educational excellence for all students."
The sustainability of a school’s success is an essential component of winning Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award, and Washington Montessori School places an admirable focus on this requirement. The presence of collaboration, coordination, and integration are important factors in determining the long-term success of a school’s whole child implementation. Washington Montessori’s School Leadership Team, which meets each month to plan for the long-term health of the school, is one of the important collaborative and coordinated efforts the staff has put in place to achieve sustainability. The team works on many initiatives, including
Schools throughout North America applied for Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. As the winner, Washington Montessori School sent five team members as guests at the 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Los Angeles, Calif., March 15-17, and the school will be featured on an upcoming Whole Child Podcast. ASCD will continue to share Washington Montessori’s expertise and exemplary practices with its 140,000 members and the larger education community.
For more information about ASCD's Whole Child Initiative, visit www.ascd.org/wholechild. To find out about the Whole Child Network of schools, visit www.ascd.org/wholechildnetwork. You can also find out more about ASCD's other programs, products, services, and memberships at www.ascd.org.
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