Michael Anderson School in Avondale Earns $10,000 as NIET Founder’s Award Finalist

February 10, 2021

Michael Anderson School in Avondale Earns $10,000 as NIET Founder’s Award Finalist

Maricopa County school among four nationwide being considered for $50,000 grand prize

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Michael Anderson School in Avondale Elementary School District, Arizona, has received $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. 

"Michael Anderson School provides a positive learning environment where teachers and students are motivated to reach their highest potential," NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. "I congratulate Principal Lori Goslar and her staff on their outstanding academic progress and unwavering commitment to make talented teachers the driving force for educational excellence."

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 Michael Anderson have continued to advance during the pandemic through the use of NIET's new tools and resources that 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.

"Michael Anderson's focus on great teaching and a 'dream big, work hard' attitude is making a difference for students," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "Principal Goslar and her team are a strong model for how to build capacity, strengthen and deepen instructional practices, and become reflective learners. These structures have only been enhanced when taking learning online – further proof that what they are doing is working."

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.

Michael Anderson School has employed these principles in a comprehensive way as part of a districtwide effort to implement NIET's TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement starting in 2011. Since that time, the growth in teachers' skills each year has led to gains in student achievement: The percentages of students testing proficient in English language arts and math have more than doubled, and the school's state rating has jumped from a C to a high B.

What Sets Michael Anderson School Apart

Michael Anderson, located near the heart of the Phoenix-metro area, serves 840 students of whom 89% are Hispanic, a quarter are English Language Learners, and all are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Having led the school since the beginning of the NIET partnership, Principal Goslar has seen the growth of teachers and students firsthand as they have made the NIET rubric – a comprehensive, research-based set of exemplary instructional practices – their own.

"The structures of NIET and its rubrics serve as a timeless avenue that has built teaching, learning, and results," Goslar said. "We have continued to grow, anchored to the rubric in every way. It creates a pathway for teachers, students, and families."

Michael Anderson's leadership team uses the NIET rubric as a guide to coach faculty, identify strengths and needs of both teachers and students, and differentiate instruction to ensure everyone is moving forward. The rubric is also a central resource for onboarding new teachers and uniting faculty around a common language and vision for excellent instruction. As an added benefit, some incoming teachers are already familiar with the rubric before starting at Michael Anderson, having completed their undergraduate coursework and student teaching there through NIET's partnership with Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Strong collaboration and supportive relationships have led to improvements in student learning year after year. From 2015 to 2019, Michael Anderson has increased its percentage of students reaching proficiency in English language arts from 16% to 34%, and from 20% to 44% in math. From 2017 to 2019, English language learners increased their performance growth by 36 percentage points, compared to the state growth of 20 percentage points during the same time. By 2019, Michael Anderson's English language learners also outpaced the state average. Improvements in student growth and behavior have gone hand in hand. Over the past two years, the school has seen chronic absenteeism drop from 14% to 8%, and the number of behavioral incidents decrease by 62%.

"NIET has taken me from a procedural leader to a conceptual leader aware of continuing possibilities that have resulted in positive outcomes and celebrations for me and my team of career teachers, leadership team members, and students," said Goslar. "We have created an environment conductive to learning. We continue to plan, reflect on our teaching, and strive to improve."

Michael Anderson School joins fellow finalists Douglas MacArthur Elementary School (Perry Township Schools, Indiana); 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 Michael Anderson 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 jrausch@niet.org or (310) 435-9259. Learn more about the conference at www.niet.org. Follow conference news – including the Founder's Award – on Facebook and Twitter @NIETteach or via #NIET2021.

Photo of Michael Anderson School courtesy of Michael Anderson School