Duplessis Primary School in Ascension Parish Receives $10,000 as NIET Founder’s Award Finalist

March 3, 2020

Duplessis Primary School in Ascension Parish Receives $10,000 as NIET Founder’s Award Finalist

Louisiana school among five in running for prestigious honor and $50,000 grand prize

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Duplessis Primary School in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, has been awarded $10,000 as a finalist for the NIET Founder's Award. The school is among five across the country under consideration for the $50,000 grand prize, which will be announced later in 2020.

"Any effort to improve instruction and student achievement must begin with effective educators and leaders," NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. "Principal Jennifer Board and her staff at Duplessis Primary School are proof that when you place a priority on developing talent at the highest level, significant results can follow."

NIET has a 20-year history of working alongside more than 8,500 schools, districts, states, and universities to ensure that all students have effective educators. NIET's partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention. The Founder's Award was created by NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken to honor one school annually for exceptional implementation of NIET's principles to build educator excellence and advance student success.

"Duplessis Primary School shows what is possible when educators are the difference-makers," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "We are proud of our partnership with Duplessis and Ascension Parish, and look forward to their continued success."   

Founder's Award recipients are selected by NIET based on their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on daily needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and leverage teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth. For the past four years at Duplessis Primary School, teachers and leaders have collaborated with NIET to build a truly collaborative environment. Principal Board leads Duplessis' staff through "The Patriot Way" − an all-in mentality to benefit the whole child – and she uses the NIET TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement as a tool to recruit effective teachers, unify faculty around shared goals, inspire leadership in others, and encourage all teachers to have a stake in school success.

What Sets Duplessis Apart
Duplessis Primary School, which is part of longtime NIET partner Ascension Public Schools, has seen how a comprehensive focus on supporting educators can dramatically shift school cultures and student outcomes. "The Patriot Way is the NIET Way, and it works," said Principal Board. "I have seen our teachers and students grow to levels of capacity, confidence, and success that was not even palpable just ten and five years ago. I live, breathe, and wholeheartedly believe in NIET and our TAP structures, and know that we are making a difference in the lives of children, educators, and communities."

NIET's foundational support has helped Duplessis students, of whom half are minority and 61% are economically disadvantaged, meet and exceed benchmarks. Each student keeps a personalized data binder of writing samples, tracking charts, and testing goals to foster student ownership of their learning, and teachers' professional development is tied to Louisiana's new high-quality Tier I curriculum to ensure teachers are helping students to meet expectations.

Student success has followed. On the most recent Louisiana state exam, students' academic index score increased 27 points from 62.5 in third grade English language arts to 89.5 in fourth grade. In social studies, teachers grew those same students by nearly 19 points − from 45.5 in third grade to 64 in fourth grade. Overall, Duplessis achieved a state letter grade of "B" in 2018 and 2019, and during the same time, the school earned an "A" in student progress, and value-added results for 2018 and 2019 showed students achieving higher than a year's worth of academic growth. In 2019, the school was named a top gains honoree on the Louisiana state report card.

Duplessis Primary School joins fellow finalists Chinle Elementary School (Chinle Unified School District, Arizona); Desert View Elementary School (Gadsden Elementary School District #32, Arizona); Slaton High School (Slaton Independent School District, Texas); and Slaughter Elementary School (East Feliciana Public Schools, Louisiana).

For graphs and images of Duplessis Primary School, visit the NIET newsroom. For interviews, please contact Jana Rausch at jrausch@niet.org or (310) 435-9259. For more information, visit www.niet.org. Follow conference news – including the Founder's Award – on Facebook and Twitter @NIETteach or via #NIET2020.