If you ask Alvin Ward, the new principal of Lansing Charter Academy (LCA), how has the Priority status of LCA affected student learning, he will tell "I embraced the designation to rally teachers to change practices and improve educational opportunities for all students." Principal Ward was hired this past summer to turn around LCA and, nine months later, the improvements are very apparent. In conducting MI Excel walk-throughs, students are visibly on task and teachers are teaching rigorous lessons using best practices that are apart of LCA's embedded Professional Development (PD) plan for the 2013-2014 school year.
In August of 2013, after a thorough analysis of the data that spurred the Priority designation, LCA teachers participated in intensive PD and a series of collaborative activities designed to improve pedagogical skills with an intense focus on reading and math. To facilitate continuous teacher support and progress monitoring of new skills, Principal Ward teamed with his Deans of students to support teachers with core subject area instruction throughout the school year.
Principal Ward said, "At first there was a lot of pushback from students, parents, and teachers as we adopted these new practices, but now they see they are working and support the changes fully." LCA's improvements are not only seen in the classrooms, but also visible in student achievement data. In addition to improved MEAP scores, LCA utilizes other assessments such as Northwest Educational Assessments, which indicate that student learning is improving, and on track to make large gains in next year's state assessments. "We've all been working really hard and we can't wait to see what our scores are next year!" said John Walker, LCA Teacher and former MSU football running back.
The keys to LCA's success has been the following:
- Hired a high quality principal who believes that all students can learn.
- The new principal fostered a culture of trust and collaboration among teachers.
- Targeted job-embedded professional development for teachers.
- The administrative team has supported and monitored instruction throughout the year.
- Administrators and teachers continuously involve students and parents as partners in building LCA's successes.
Schools that are struggling with their Priority School designation can use LCA as a model for embracing the designation and using it to improve teaching and learning for all students. LCA has proven that it can be done!