School one of just five in nation in the running for $50,000 grand prize award
East Feliciana, LA (March 7, 2023) - The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Slaughter Elementary School in East Feliciana Public Schools, Louisiana, won $10,000 for its selection as an NIET Founder’s Award finalist. The prestigious Founder’s Award was created by Lowell Milken in 2008 to honor one school in the United States each year for exceptional implementation of NIET’s principles to build educator excellence and advance student success. Slaughter Elementary School is among five schools across the country under consideration for the $50,000 grand prize, which will be announced at the NIET’s national conference on March 23.
"Principal Jennifer Thornton is a proud beneficiary of Slaughter’s career pathway, and it is evident in the leadership, collaboration and trust she has built among her staff to meet the needs of every student," said NIET Founder Lowell Milken. "Through advancing instructional practices, Slaughter’s educators provide students with the skills and experiences to think critically, self-reflect and build their own paths to a bright future. We commend the school, and guidance under Superintendent Keisha Netterville, for placing educator effectiveness at the cornerstone of raising student achievement."
Founder’s Award recipients like Slaughter Elementary School are selected by NIET based on several factors, including their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement, plans for regular professional learning focused on real-time needs of teachers and students, creating a culture of collaboration and reflection, and leveraging teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth.
NIET’s partner schools have shown success in improving educator, student and school outcomes. Slaughter Elementary School, among other schools, has continuously elevated its educators through the use of NIET’s tools and resources to support instructional excellence and create career pathways.
"One of the most impressive results at Slaughter Elementary is the increase in the percentage of effective teachers from 69% to 96%. This increase is reflected in student academic achievement that consistently outpaces expectations and is closing achievement gaps," said NIET Chief Executive Officer Dr. Joshua Barnett. "The creation of a career path and powerful leadership roles for teachers is increasing access to educational opportunities and success for all students."
What Makes Slaughter Elementary School Unique?
Located north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Slaughter Elementary School is one of seven campuses in East Feliciana Public Schools. Of Slaughter Elementary School’s 470 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 6th, 31 percent are minority and 67 percent are economically disadvantaged. Through its partnership with NIET, Slaughter Elementary School has seen increases in the effectiveness of its teachers and leaders and improvements in student achievement. Principal Jennifer Thornton and her leadership team are focused on building instructional capacity and fostering growth for teachers, all while providing student-centered learning.
Slaughter Elementary School partnered with NIET through the LA BOLD grant which provided an opportunity for the school to implement foundational structures and protocols for increasing educator effectiveness.
"We have foundational structures in place, and we have established them over the last six years," said Thornton. "This has helped us recruit, retain and attract new teachers. We have a solid foundation. We know who we are, where we are going, and where we want to be in the next several years."
Slaughter Elementary School’s foundational structures – including focusing on equity, providing a career pipeline for educators, and allowing teachers time to collaborate and receive feedback – have led to increased student achievement. From 2021 to 2022, the percentage of students who scored “mastery and above” on state assessments in all subjects increased by 6 percentage points, closing the gap with the state. In addition to steady student achievement growth, Slaughter Elementary School has also seen improvements in teacher performance. Since partnering with NIET, the percentage of teachers evaluated as "effective or above" has increased from 69 percent to 96 percent.
In addition to developing the skills of teachers, Slaughter Elementary School has created a career pathway through the use of teacher leaders. This pathway has resulted in a cadre of strong instructional leaders on the campus. These instructionally-focused leaders provide high-quality and tailored coaching and feedback to teachers, ultimately leading to better classroom teaching.
"The opportunity for career pathway advancement through NIET has better prepared me for my current role as principal," said Thornton. "The career advancement opportunities through our partnership with NIET have greatly increased my knowledge and effectiveness as the principal and instructional leader of Slaughter Elementary."
The coaching and feedback provided by Slaughter Elementary School’s instructional leaders is supported by the NIET Teaching and Learning Standards Rubric. The use of NIET’s rubric has created a common language for the entire Slaughter Elementary School team and has allowed professional learning to support student ownership of learning. Teachers and students are now co-constructing success criteria, and students are given the opportunity to self-reflect at the end of lessons to determine their own progress towards mastery. This, in turn, gives all students the opportunity to own their learning.
"It is our goal at Slaughter Elementary to provide all students equitable access to a high-quality education," said Thornton. "NIET structures have helped us provide quality education to all students as we shifted our understanding of student-centered learning to support teachers in planning for high-quality instruction."
Slaughter Elementary School joins fellow finalists Desert Thunder School (Avondale Elementary School District, Arizona); William Henry Burkhart Elementary (Perry Township Schools, Indiana); Forest Acres Elementary School (School District of Pickens County, South Carolina); and Dr. Lonnie Green Elementary (San Felipe Del Rio CISD, Texas) in contention for the $50,000 Founder’s Award grand prize.