Sumter principals outline achievement plan for students

Best practices will be done regularly to boost success

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To address the need to improve student academic achievement this year, Sumter School District is taking a collaborate leadership approach among all school principals that will also increase assistance offered to classroom teachers.

Shaw Heights Elementary School Principal Melissa Morris, representing all the school district's principals, outlined the plan - called "Powerful Practices" - on Monday night to Sumter School District's Board of Trustees at its regular monthly meeting at the district office.

Under the leadership and guidance of Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm, Morris said all the district's principals from the elementary, middle and high school levels have reached a consensus on best practices in curriculum, instruction and assessment to improve student achievement.

The principals have committed to have continuous dialogue throughout the school year and to work as teams with the ultimate goal of helping teachers help students achieve more.

According to Morris, the best practices include ensuring the alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessments to new, rigorous standards that the state Department of Education has put in place in recent years for all students to be college and career ready. Professional development is also being offered to help teachers focus specifically on the standards and ensure everyone involved with classroom instruction is on the same page, Morris said.

She described the new collaborative efforts as "powerful practices" to implement goals and plans at the school level that previously likely weren't fleshed out as well.

"We are excited about being able to work together in teams," Morris said. "Elementary principals work together, and middle and high school principals work together."

She also gave credit to Hamm's leadership in setting the bar for principals to work together on a regular basis along with district staff-level subject coordinators and classroom teachers.

Implementing more formative assessments to be used throughout the school year to measure how students and teachers are progressing is also critical to the new plan, Morris said, instead of just waiting until the end of the school year to see how students scored on an end-of-grade exam.

Board members were pleased with the efforts being made to improve academic achievement districtwide.

"I am so excited to hear about this collaborative leadership and this empowerment of school-level administrators and teachers that can steer us in the right direction," board member Johnny Hilton said. "I applaud Dr. Hamm, and I applaud the principals who worked on this. This is just wonderful, and I know it's going to have positive results for our children."