School Showcase – Duncan Smith, Frankford Elementary

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Frankford Elementary (SLIDE — SCHOOL PICTURE)


I received a call on my walkie-talkie that the US Department of Education was on the telephone. Of course, I took the call. I spoke to Christine Isett about coming to speak here today. After getting most of the details of the presentation, I thanked her for inviting me, but explained that I had a student that I was mentoring who was waiting for me. I said good-bye and I got back to work with Juan Carlos. Juan came to the United States two years ago knowing no English. He receives extra support for Reading through our HOSTS mentoring program from me and two other mentors. I mention Juan Carlos because, despite arriving here two short years ago and having to face all of the challenges that go along with it, Juan has been very successful on our State assessment, earning a passing score on each of the tests that he has taken. Juan is just an example of the many students that we have identified for help, provided the appropriate ongoing academic supports and proven instructional strategies, and instilled the confidence in him that he could be successful. And he has not proven us wrong.

I plan to highlight some of the pieces that have gone into helping Frankford Elementary evolve into what it has become today. First of all, why am I here? Why Frankford Elementary? (SLIDE — AWARDS) Over the past few years, our school has received a few prestigious awards. In November, we were recognized by the Education Trust for closing the Achievement gap among our student population. (SLIDE — FE POPULATION) Our student body consists of 38% Hispanic, 32% White, and 30% African American. The school sits in a small, rural community ten miles from the seaside summer vacation resort of Bethany Beach, Delaware, but despite our close proximity to the large, expensive beach homes found there, Frankford Elementary serves many underprivileged students. 82% of our student body qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most of their families rely on the areas poultry industry for employment. Last school year, Frankford Elementary students "Dispelled the Myth" expected of children with this background. (SLIDE — 2005 TEST RESULTS) In the spring of 2005, 100% of our students in grades 3 and 5 met the Standard as set out by our State Reading Assessment; 95% met the Standard in math. This didn't happen over night, and as you will see a little later when I discuss our State test results, we have shown continuous growth of the past eight years. Our results for 2006 won't be available until mid-May, but this past fall, 98% of our 4th grade students met the Standard in on the annual Science assessment and 90% met the Standard in Social Studies. So, our students continue to perform at high levels.

Now, I have to explain that all the things for which the school has been celebrated, has had nothing to do with me. This is my first year as principal and my first year at the school. My job – my number one priority - is to maintain the current culture and to work with the staff to continue to identify areas of improvement and provide them with the necessary support to continue our success.


Frankford Elementary School has evolved from a school that no parent would consider to be a "school of choice" to one of the most celebrated in southeastern Sussex County, Delaware. Now, 10% of our student population attends Frankford through Delaware's School Choice Program.
(SLIDE – HISTORY OF FE) In 1891, Pierre Samuel DuPont (1870-1954) provided money for the construction of 86 schools for black students in the state of Delaware. Frankford Elementary was originally named George Washington Carver School, named after the black agricultural chemist. All staff member at the school were black from 1929-1965. The principal often was the teacher as well as the administrator of the school, being responsible for providing education for grades 1-8. Since 1929 the school has had several renovations and additions. In 1969, the school's name was changed from George Washington Carver to Frankford Elementary School, during the consolidation of numerous local districts and the creation of the Indian River School District.

(SLIDE – COMMUNITY SUPPORT) Frankford benefits from strong community support by area churches, community service organizations, and local businesses. Each year, local groups donate school supplies, clothing, and food to many of Frankford's students and money to the school for various programs. Frankford also currently has over 150 active mentors from the community providing academic assistance through our nationally recognized H.O.S.T.S. Mentoring program. The faculty aggressively pursue local, state and federal grant money to purchase items not available through the school's regular budget. This support has helped foster the acceptance of all who come to school here, establishing the Frankford motto: "A Place for Everyone". (SLIDE – A PLACE FOR EVERYONE) Over the years, the school has added pre-school classes, programs for English Language Learners, support for students who are Hard of Hearing/Profoundly Deaf, and programs that allow for mainstream opportunities of severely physically and mentally handicapped children. These programs are just a part of the accepted belief that all children deserve a quality education. (SLIDE – SCHOOL VISION) The staff has accepted a shared vision that states: "We believe we can make a difference in the lives entrusted to us. We recognize, accept, and respect individual differences. We pledge our professional skills to educating all of our children so that they will excel in their life endeavors." Everyone here probably has read or has a similar vision statement for their own school. At Frankford, the school and, more importantly, its culture underwent an extensive transformation to live up to this vision.


(SLIDE – PRIOR TO 1996) A number of years ago, teachers made excuses about their students' inability to meet the established standards. Teachers believed that the students in their school would never be able to reach high standards of rigorous academic achievement since over 70% qualified for free and reduced lunch. Low expectations, limited resources, a lack of diverse teaching strategies, and little if any teacher autonomy or input had created a climate of distrust and apprehension. (SLIDE – 1996-2005) In 1996, a new, very ambitious Principal entered the school with a fresh focus and a passion for children. The battleship gray walls were painted over with more friendly colors; the special education wing of the build became a thing of the past. Teachers were empowered to become a part of the school change. A new culture needed to be established in which teachers would not make excuses. Resistance was initially strong as new programs and curricula were adopted. But as staff members began to ask themselves why their students were not being successful and found ways to address their needs, the general philosophy changed and expectations became much higher. As a result, the students responded. (SLIDE – FE TODAY) Now, a new culture exists where teachers at Frankford expect their students to strive for high achievement levels. Teachers analyze test results, collaborative teams meet to discuss curriculum, and students are thoroughly prepared to demonstrate that they can meet the higher expectations on rigorous annual State assessments. The achievement gap has now been closed between regular and Special Education students and among ethnic groups. The results are a testament to the hard work that transpired to get students to high levels of achievement.

In January, Ray Simon visited Frankford Elementary to recognize the successes of our students in conjunction with the fourth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act. When asked by a reporter what he would tell school in 2014 who have not yet met the requirements of NCLB, he responded, "Come to Frankford. You're looking at 2014 today." His statement validates Frankford's journey to overcome cultural barriers, establish higher expectations, and achieve positive results.


(SLIDE – INSTRUCTIONAL SUPPORTS) Staff-development, both District wide and school wide, has been instrumental in improving student achievement at Frankford. Proven instructional strategies were selected and have become the expected teaching practices. The entire staff at Frankford Elementary has been trained in Dimension of Learning strategies (Marzano et al.) and in Learning Focused Strategies (Thompson). Shifting the teaching process from teacher-centered "sit-and-get" lessons to student-centered lessons that require students to demonstrate their ability to explain, apply, and interpret key declarative and procedural knowledge has raised student achievement. Teachers have also differentiated instruction within their own classroom setting to meet the needs of their individual students.

Teachers have aligned the curriculum and their instruction to the State Content Standards and have collaborated between and among grade levels to try new strategies and to integrate content materials. These collaborative teams were established as a part of our Professional Learning Communities (PLC). Teachers meet to agree on essential learning, develop short-term common assessments, analyze the results, and make adjustments to their instruction on a continuous basis. These weekly PLC team meetings have given teachers the opportunity to voice opinions and concerns and have given teachers shared ownership in their work. Teachers no longer work in isolation and the school community has greatly benefited.

(SLIDE – SUPPORTS ADDED) Over the years, programs have been adopted to supplement and support the regular curriculum. Some of those include: Early Success, Soar to Success, HOSTS Mentoring, Guided Reading, Breakthrough to Literacy, Smithsonian Science Kits, Earobics, Math 24, Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math, and CCC. Effectively utilizing these programs and incorporating proven instructional strategies have been influential in increasing student achievement.


(SLIDE – DIAGNOSTIC TESTING) Results of student performance on assessments are constantly monitored and used to help improve student achievement. Students are administered reading and math assessments three times during the school year through computer software programs. In the fall, teachers and administrators use the results of the first assessment to identify students for before and in-school tutoring and enrichment programs. Also, in December of each school year, student data is evaluated again to identify students that are invited to attend a ten-week after school program. Students receive extra assistance with homework or are given extra instruction to prepare them for the State assessment, which is administered in March. This school year, 107 students (24% of the overall school population) were identified for the after school program. Students and teachers meet two times per week in a small group setting. Data analysis of the gains made by students attending the program in the past has indicated that the extra support made a difference.

(SLIDE – QUARTERLY ASSESSMENTS) Quarterly grade-level common assessments are administered in reading and math to monitor student progress and to help identify curriculum needs. Teachers meet as a grade-level team and score assessments rubrics. Assessments are modeled after State assessments. (SLIDE – MATH CLUB) In math, students not performing well and/or needing support to keep up with the rest of the class are identified and attend "Math Club". Students are placed in small instructional groups. Math Club meets a minimum of three days per week during recess, with no students missing recess more than twice per week. Students receive instruction that is 40% remediation and 60% previewing of upcoming concepts, vocabulary, and mathematics skills. Teachers design fun, informative activities so that Math Club is not perceived as a punishment. Teachers and students recognize this program as a beneficial opportunity to gain extra instructional time and, in the end, improve student achievement.

(SLIDE – PROMOTION AND REVIEW) Data analysis and discussions about students can be very time consuming. Extensive data analysis drives instructional program decisions and determines necessary extra supports for students. You might be asking yourself, when do these discussions take place? The administration and the support staff meet each quarter with every classroom teacher during teacher planning time to discuss every child's progress. These meetings are valuable to monitoring student performance and in initiating any support programs, such as before school, in-school pullouts, and/or after school programs for our students. (SLIDE – FORM) Student data, including assessment results (theme tests, diagnostic tests, State assessments) is maintained on our school's server for easy availability and frequent use. (SLIDE – SPREADSHEET) The sum of the parts that I have discussed have helped lead to impressive results.

(SLIDE – DSTP) For those of you not from Delaware, prior to this school year the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) tested students in grades three and five in reading, writing and math for school accountability at the elementary level. Science and Social Studies assessments are administered in the fall of fourth grade, but are considered to be grade three end-of-cluster tests. Starting with this year's test results, grade four reading, writing and math results will become a part of a school's accountability rating.

(SLIDE – 3RD) The numbers on the bar graph represent the percentage of students meeting DSTP Content Standards on State assessments.

(SLIDE – 5TH) The past eight years of data shows that Frankford's students have sustained continuous growth, highlighted by the 2004-2005 results, where 100% of third and fifth grade students met standard on the DSTP Reading assessment. (SLIDE – 4TH) Also, I would like to point out another specific increase: in 1999-2000 (the first year of the forth grade Science and Social Studies assessment), only 67% met standard in Science, with 1% (1 out of 74) of the students scoring a "5", the highest possible score. In the fall of 2005, 98% of Frankford students (49 out of 50) met the standard and an impressive 30% scored a "5". (SLIDE – SOCIAL STUDIES) This has been the trend over the past five years, as the top three shaded areas on each bar represent. (SLIDE – SCIENCE) Not only are our students passing the test, but also more students are scoring at the highest Performance Levels each year.

Year after year, the teachers at Frankford have used testing data to adjust their instruction. They have embraced a standards-based curriculum and have worked diligently to prepare students to achieve high levels on the DSTP. Their hard work is evident by the results.


(SLIDE – FE SUCCESS) So as you can see, there is not just one magic solution that has helped our school achieve such outstanding results, but a collection of data-driven proven strategies and instructional techniques. And, more importantly, it did not happen over night. Setting high expectations, centering teaching strategies on student learning, data analysis, structured student academic supports, teacher collaboration, and teacher empowerment all impact the school and our students in individualized ways, but in the end, each has been an integral part of our school's success. And we continue to improve our programs in areas where the data tells us we need to improve. Our work will never be done, but in the end, we know it to be work that is very rewarding. (SLIDE — NCLB) The final slide includes a quote from my predecessor, Sharon Brittingham, and the main person responsible for leading Frankford Elementary to where it is today. The first step is to establish a belief system that it can be done. Then the possibilities are endless.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share our school and its story with you today.

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Last Modified: 05/30/2006