December 22, 2009 18:47 Age: 8 yrs

We Will Win and ... Finish Strong

Category: Home, Maia Heyck-Merlin
By: Maia Heyck-Merlin

Each Sunday afternoon, I have the privilege of seeing the messages Achievement First principals send to their teams for the week ahead. This week I was struck by these paragraphs from the principal of Elm City College Prep Elementary in New Haven, Connecticut. Morgan Barth, a second-year principal, inspires and encourages his team to push even harder and smarter to close the achievement gap, and to finish December in a strong (and joyful!) fashion.

1. We Will Win

Dear Team,

We have all pledged to do whatever it takes to make ECCP deliver its promise to prepare all of our children for college. We made that pledge to parents in Report Card night. We made that pledge to each other on Data Day. And explicitly or implicitly we make that pledge every day to our scholars themselves. I am proud to know that we are again the #1 school for African-American performance in the state -- that unequivocally shows that our hard work and dedication provides a better option than all of district public schools that serve African American students around our state. Yet we will not be satisfied until we are the #1 school, period. We will win.

Excel Academy, a Boston charter school that AF works with, has had a similar path as ECCP. It was founded seven years ago with a lot of promise and it hit a rough patch ... it was not a "high-performing" charter for awhile. Yet for the last two years Excel has had 100 percent of its students reach goal on the Math MCAS (their CMT); and this year it had the highest scores in the state on the English MCAS. Excel, which serves a low-income community, is the #1 school in the entire state of Massachusetts. Excel doesn't do the best out of the schools that serve black kids or Latino kids or poor kids or urban kids -- it's #1, period.We can and we must achieve the same. We may not get there this year. But we will. We will win.

Our climb to "#1, period" may take longer than a year but we have set ambitious goals for the next IA cycle and for this year. We have until February to move all of our scholars up at least another F&P level. You know who they are, you will have them in guided reading ... your mission is to do whatever it takes to help these scholars achieve at least F&P levels. On the IA we must move our red scholars to yellow; our yellow scholars to green and our green scholars into the 90s so that they can reach Level 5 advanced on the CMT. We can do this. We will win.

2. Finish Strong

This the #1 culture message this week. We face the challenges of holiday excitement, holiday jitters, poor weather, a jacked-up schedule, etc. etc. Yet we must finish strong. As you know from Data Day, we don't have time to waste and that's why we maximize instructional time by making sure that the weeks before vacations are as focused and meaningful as any other time. Be calm, be consistent and explain to scholars that at ECCP we FINISH STRONG!!!

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By continuing to fight the good fight every day, Morgan and his team exemplify AF's values and are models for delivering on the promise we make to students and families. As we head into the holidays for rejuvenation and relaxation, keep the good fight at the forefront of your minds so you can return even stronger. Warmest wishes for a joyful 2010.