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Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
April 1, 2005
Vol. 62
No. 7

Meet ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator for 2004

    Meet ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator for 2004- thumbnail
      The principle of paideia encourages both students and educators to become lifelong learners and to strive to attain their ultimate potential. We can see this principle at work in Pete Hall's life, from his days as a beginning bilingual 2nd grade teacher in Livermore, California, to his current position as the principal of Anderson Elementary School in Reno, Nevada. His relentless pursuit of the highest levels of learning is the hallmark of his work.
      Hall's leadership at Anderson Elementary led the ASCD selection committee to choose him as the recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA). In just two years, he transformed a failing inner-city school into Nevada's only “High-Achieving” Title I school. His article in Educational Leadership, “A School Reclaims Itself” (February 2005), highlights this remarkable turnaround.
      When Hall started as principal at Anderson, the school was in trouble. The state of Nevada had given the school 90 days to come up with a comprehensive school improvement plan or face a possible takeover of leadership. Hall's first move was to take a group of 10 teachers to Kennewick, Washington, to observe three high-achieving schools and meet with the district's superintendent. Inspired by that district's success, the group took what it learned as a starting point for Anderson's school improvement plan. During the next two months, the school improvement committee developed a seven-component improvement plan.
      The most striking of these components was the addition of a 90-minute uninterrupted literacy block—on top of the school's current literacy program—for all students. This program required teachers, literacy coordinators, the librarian, specialists, teacher assistants, and even the dean of students to lead a reading group daily. Every adult staff member—with the exception of Hall, the head secretary, the clinical aide, and the head custodian—was given charge of a group of students. All personnel received intensive training to make implementation possible.
      Another important component of the school's improvement plan was a 75-minute teacher collaboration period every Wednesday. To enable all teachers to participate, every week Hall led an assembly for the half the students while the dean of students ran an organized physical education activity for the rest of the students. Each week the two groups swapped activities. In the end, the school's efforts paid off: Achievement in both English and math, as shown in student performance on Nevada's proficiency benchmarks, increased dramatically across all demographic groups.
      When asked how staff members evaluated the changes in the school, Hall noted,The nature of our business is change. We tried to foster a philosophy of being critical and seeing what we're really doing on a daily basis. The most important thing that we do is work with kids and try to improve their lives and set them up with a future. As long as we keep that as a focus, I don't think we can make bad decisions.
      Hall said he pursued the job as principal at Anderson because he prefers to work in settings where students “don't come from a lot and don't have a lot” so he can help them see that they have more than they think they do. He knew that the school had been getting bad publicity and that 90 percent of the students were living at or below the poverty line. For a leader always striving for achievement and improvement, it was an opportunity to create meaningful change.

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