“Welcome to Success”
Tucker Elementary School’s 2003-2004 school motto is “Welcome to Success.” Tucker’s “success” attitude and motto are a reflection of the tremendous gains that this school has made over the past three years on the state mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). In 2002-2003, Tucker students scored 90’s across the board on the CRCT in math, language arts and reading. Children, parents and employees are reminded of the success motto daily when they see it posted in the front lobby, read it on honor roll T-shirts, or hear it during the morning announcements.
“Tucker has done a phenomenal job addressing student needs and working with all of the children to help them succeed in their class work and to improve their test scores. The school has made great progress due to the school leadership, excellent teachers and parental support,” said Danny Carpenter, Houston County superintendent of schools. Just a few years ago Tucker was placed on the state’s “needs improvement” list because of poor results on the math portion of the 2000-2001 CRCT. New mandates required that Tucker make immediate improvement or risk losing federal and state funding, as well as face potential changes in administrative staffing. Tucker teachers, administrators, and students rose to the challenge and set goals above and beyond the state requirements. Their hard work has paid off. Last year Tucker was one of the Houston County elementary schools that showed the most improvement as well as one of the highest performing for the 2002-2003 school year.
When asked how her school moved from a “needs improvement” school to a school in which 90% or more of the students passed the reading, language arts, and math sections of the CRCT, Dr. Kim Halstead, the school”s principal, replied, “Tucker Elementary School always had the potential to be a high achieving school. The challenge was getting students, teachers, staff members, parents, and community members to work toward a common goal.” This was accomplished through improved communication between administrators, teachers and parents.
Other strategies were also implemented. The daily schedule was revamped to increase instructional time and decrease non-instructional periods of time such as transition from room to room, restroom breaks for the entire class, etc. Teachers within a grade level were allotted common planning time. Students were placed in classes based on their academic strengths and weaknesses rather than random assignment to classes. Additional instructional materials were purchased to support both student and teacher needs. Many hours were spent exchanging ideas with staff members, parents, and students so that Halstead and her administrative team could truly understand and grasp the strengths and weaknesses of the school. In addition, students as well as parents became aware of the academic areas where gains were needed. “Each student is now expected to take responsibility for his or her own behavior and learning for each day that he or she is in school,” said Halstead.
The vivacious principal also credits the opportunity to hire new/additional staff members as playing a key role in Tucker’s recent success. “Hiring professional, enthusiastic, team players to add to the strong group of teachers already working at Tucker was and is a top priority for me.” Tucker has an extensive interview process in place that requires candidates, in addition to answering oral and written interview questions, to teach to a group of Tucker students while the interview team observes. Halstead identifies Lisa Barnett, the media specialist and Tucker’s 2003-2004 Teacher of the Year, as one such hire that contributed to Tucker’s recent success. “Ms. Barnett’s position was the first position I had the privilege of hiring. She set the tone and standard for the type of person I was looking to bring to Tucker Elementary School. Ms. Barnett accepts the challenge of making the media center an extension of the work taking place in the classroom. She is in constant communication with the teachers and students, working to meet their needs. Since her hiring, I have had the privilege of adding several other staff members to our team of teachers. Each has served to strengthen the level of professional growth and classroom instruction that is expected when you are a part of the Tucker Elementary School team.”
At the beginning of this school year, Tucker celebrated their success on the CRCT by throwing a party for faculty members and students. Letters about the achievement were sent to parents and local businesses. Superintendent Carpenter features Tucker during presentations given local and state organizations. But the Tucker staff isn’t content to rest on their laurels. “We are very proud of our recent achievements, but we are focused on continual improvement and gains to solidify our standing in both Houston County and Georgia. Each year presents new opportunities and new challenges,” said Halstead.
In addition to the school’s emphasis on academic achievement, the Tucker Tigers are offered many opportunities to enhance their learning skills, learn more about a topic of interest, or socialize with a variety of students that may or may not be in the same grade level or classroom. Tucker Elementary offers more than 10 before or after school clubs. On a strictly volunteer basis, Tucker teachers provide unique clubs for students: math, computer/art, book, news/reporting, Good News, etiquette, drama, and chorus.
In particular, the Eagles Club, sponsored by Mrs. Elaine Griggs and Mrs. Anne Corbin, is making a difference among the students at Tucker. This club provides a “sponsor” to male students who demonstrate leadership potential but are in need of additional support and encouragement. The sponsors assist them with both behavior and academic growth. Each Friday Eagles Club members enjoy breakfast at school while listening to a guest speaker address topics such as citizenship, good sportsmanship, or respect for others. A parent night and club T-shirts are two of the many aspects that make being a member of the Eagles Club an extra special honor.
Parents, students, and staff members view these unique clubs as “the icing on the cake” with respect to the positive influence that before and after school activities have had on Tucker students.
Tucker Elementary School is already preparing for the 2004-2005 school year when the school will welcome approximately 150 additional students and seven faculty members. Halstead commented, “Parents and future staff members are already visiting our school and being included in decisions that will affect them next year. Addressing the needs of new students will be one of our top priorities next year.”
Working with students and being responsible for their education is a daunting task, but one that Tucker Elementary School and its community accept. As proven by their recent test scores, the words “Tucker Elementary” and “success” belong together!#
For additional information on Tucker Elementary School, visit the school website at www.hcbe.tes.net or contact Principal Dr. Halstead at (478) 988-6278.