Douglas MacArthur Elementary in Perry Township Is Named NIET Founder’s Award Finalist, Earns $10,000

February 10, 2021

Douglas MacArthur Elementary in Perry Township Is Named NIET Founder’s Award Finalist, Earns $10,000

South Indianapolis school among four nationwide being considered for $50,000 grand prize

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in Perry Township Schools, Indiana, has earned $10,000 for its selection as an NIET Founder's Award finalist. The school is among four across the country under consideration for the $50,000 grand prize, which will be announced virtually at the NIET National Conference on Thursday, March 4, 2021, at 10 a.m. ET.

"Outstanding results at Douglas MacArthur Elementary and Perry Township at large are proof that investing in the leadership and development of talented teachers changes lives," NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. "I commend Principal Star Hardimon and her faculty on their accomplishments year after year, and for making Douglas MacArthur a collaborative, nurturing place for all to excel."

For 20 years, NIET has partnered with schools, districts, states, and universities to ensure all students have effective educators. Its work to help develop teacher leaders, collaborate on successful strategies, and provide feedback and support to peers that address teacher and student needs have served more than 9,000 schools and have impacted more than 275,000 teachers and 2.75 million students.

NIET's partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention. Schools including Douglas MacArthur have continued to advance during the pandemic through the use of NIET's new tools and resources to accommodate virtual instruction, support from expert leaders and trainers, and access to a large network of educators united around shared learning. The Founder's Award was created by Lowell Milken to honor one school annually for exceptional implementation of NIET's principles to build educator excellence and advance student success.

"Perry Township prides itself on 'empowering students to grow,' but it also empowers teachers to grow. Douglas MacArthur is a shining example of that," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. “Principal Hardimon describes her teachers as being 'all in,' and we see that in everything they do – from leading professional learning to looking at data to ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. These are the values they live by each day, and what makes their story worthy of recognition."

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 real-time needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and leverage teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth. Perry Township began its partnership with NIET in 2010 with two schools, then extended it districtwide in 2012 – including to Douglas MacArthur. The district's commitment and dedication to excellent teaching have remained strong under the leadership of Superintendent Patrick W. Mapes. Principal Hardimon – a former teacher – credits school and district support for helping her lead Douglas MacArthur to an A state rating through developing her teachers as learners, challenging their thinking, continuously analyzing data, and getting results.

What Sets Douglas MacArthur Elementary Apart

Douglas MacArthur, located south of Indianapolis, is among Perry's 17 schools and serves 880 students. Like its fellow campuses, MacArthur experienced a significant shift in demographics due to an influx of refugees, mostly from Myanmar. The school's English Learner student population has increased from 24% to over 50%, and its eligibility of students for free or reduced-price lunch has jumped from 53% to 73%. Hardimon, who became principal during the transition, spearheaded the change in how educators engaged students, delivered instruction, and used data to inform decisions.

"NIET's structure of formal leadership has helped me peel away some of my own feelings from having to always have the answers to posing questions to the team that lead to realistic solutions, growth, and learning," said Hardimon. "My leadership has grown through NIET and the support from our central office. It's hard for me to think about where I would be as a building leader without these structures. NIET's model allows me to provide the support for my teachers and receive the support from the district to help kids and pull it all together."

The whole-team approach has resulted in students performing well above state averages in English language arts (56%) and math (65%) compared to the state average of 48% in both subjects, according to 2018-19 data – the most recent available. Similarly, the 2019-20 WIDA 2.0 assessment shows that more than 55% of English learners are exceeding targets to meet the state's long-term goals for language development, compared to the state average of over 30%.

A credit to the school's success is the inclusion of special area teachers – such as gym, music, and art – in core subject professional development sessions to enhance student understanding across curricula. Another is an annual focus on raising achievement for students in the bottom 25% of each grade. The instructional leadership team holds data conferences with those students to establish goals and steps to meet them; serves as mentors; and celebrates their achievements with events throughout the year. Those efforts have paid off, with 53% of those students meeting growth targets in English language arts compared to the state average of 34%, and 40% meeting targets in math compared to the state average of 17%. 

Douglas MacArthur joins fellow finalists Michael Anderson School (Avondale Elementary School District, Arizona); North DeSoto High School (DeSoto Parish Schools, Louisiana); and Prairie View Elementary School (Goshen Community Schools, Indiana) in contention for the $50,000 grand prize.

For images of Douglas MacArthur and more information about NIET, visit the NIET newsroom. For interviews and requests to attend the Founder's Award announcement, please contact Jana Rausch at or (310) 435-9259. Learn more about the conference at Follow conference news – including the Founder's Award – on Facebook and Twitter @NIETteach or via #NIET2021.

Photo of Douglas MacArthur courtesy of Perry Township Schools