Duplessis Primary in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, Receives $50,000 NIET Founder’s Award

May 19, 2020

Duplessis Primary in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, Receives $50,000 NIET Founder’s Award

School honored for making educational excellence the framework for student success

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) announced today that Duplessis Primary School in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, is the recipient of the 2020 NIET Founder’s Award and its $50,000 grand prize.

Duplessis earned this award because of its work to improve student performance through using the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, which is a comprehensive approach to strengthen instruction and advance student learning. Since implementing TAP, students have excelled – in some cases posting double-digit gains – and the school has been recognized by the state of Louisiana for its improvement. The NIET Founder's Award will be used to support Duplessis' teachers and leaders in their development as effective educators.

For 20 years, NIET has worked with more than 8,500 schools, districts, states, and universities to establish structures of leadership, development, and support to ensure that all students have effective teachers. NIET's partner schools have achieved sustained progress by outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention. The Founder's Award was created by NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken to acknowledge one school annually for exceptional implementation of NIET's principles to make excellent teaching the cornerstone of student learning.

NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken and CEO Dr. Candice McQueen surprised the Duplessis school community with the honor during an online recognition ceremony.

"Duplessis Primary School has built an infrastructure of support for teachers that has produced powerful results for students," NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. "Strong and stable leadership, a capable and dedicated staff, and a sharp focus on achievement growth for all have made continuous improvement a daily reality. I congratulate Principal Jennifer Board and her team, as well as Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander for their leadership and guidance to place instructional excellence at the core of student success."

"Duplessis Primary's teamwork and focus on every child create a setting where students and teachers can thrive," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "That is exactly what we all want to see in every classroom across the country."  

About Duplessis Primary

NIET's foundational support and the school's unifying motto of "The Patriot Way" have helped Duplessis students – of whom half are minority and 61% are economically disadvantaged – meet and exceed benchmarks.

"Fidelity to the NIET framework is the key to our success," said Principal Jennifer Board. "We are a highly reflective culture. Without the framework, we wouldn't be where we are. Since Duplessis became an NIET partner school, we have continued to grow every single year."

"The Duplessis leadership team meeting is a place I know where I can go bring my work," Master Teacher Shelley Farmer said. "There will be a team of people behind me helping me figure out what I need to do for students."

On the most recent Louisiana state exam, students' academic index score increased from 62.5 in third grade English language arts to 89.5 in fourth grade. In social studies, teachers grew those same students 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. In 2019, the school was named a top gains honoree on the Louisiana state report card. Learn more about Duplessis Primary School.

About the NIET Founder's Award
Duplessis Primary School was selected among five finalists throughout the U.S. Fellow finalists, each receiving $10,000, are 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).

Founder's Award recipients are determined by NIET based on their efforts to prioritize instructional excellence; coordinate ongoing professional learning tailored to the specific needs of teachers and students; create a collaborative, reflective environment for all to thrive; and maximize skills, knowledge, and experiences of teacher leaders and administrators to drive student achievement growth.

To view photos and profile videos of Duplessis Primary, visit the NIET newsroom.

Watch a recording of the event and hear reflections of the finalists:

Watch the surprise announcement and the reaction and remarks from Duplessis and Ascension leaders:


For interviews, please contact Jana Rausch at jrausch@niet.org or (310) 435-9259. Follow NIET on Facebook and Twitter @NIETteach.