Hard Work by School Staff Pays Off
Superintendent’s Message for February 2016
by Theresa Davidson, Superintendent
Last month, I shared with great pride the news of our students’ achievement results on the new state assessments. Our scores mirrored the average of all districts in our state.
Why does “average” make me so proud? According to the state report card, 62.26 percent of our students live in homes that struggle to make ends meet; that compares to 50.15 percent state-wide. Approximately 8.5 percent of Kansas students are English language learners. In Emporia, 36.26 percent of students must learn English along with the subjects we teach at school. Just over 34 percent of Kansas students come from Hispanic, African American, and other cultures. In Emporia, 54.89 percent of our students – many of them first generation Americans – approach learning from a background that may recognize very different values and perspectives. We start from a different place, but Emporia graduates enter college and career experiences with skills that match or exceed their peers across the state. Our students’ scores are right in line with those of other districts in the state. THAT makes me proud!
We celebrate our diversity, and the richness of the “melting pot” in the Emporia schools provides a globally significant advantage for Emporia students, but getting us there is no accident!
We know and celebrate that the teacher in the classroom is the single most important factor in a child’s success in school. This is where Emporia children have the edge. We have amazing teachers and support staff.
Emporia State University established the Kansas Master Teacher awards in 1953 to honor teachers who have dedicated a career to serving students. Twenty-four Emporia teachers have been named Kansas Master Teachers. One is listed among those named to the National Teacher Hall of Fame. Since the award began, three Kansas Teachers of the Year and seven KTOY finalists have been Emporia teachers; 11 of our first-year teachers have received Kansas Horizon Awards. That is no accident either!
We start with the best! Emporia Public Schools attracts some of the finest teachers from all across the state and sometimes from outside the state of Kansas. One reason is our proximity to Emporia State University where teacher education is hailed as one of the best in the nation. We are proud to say that many of THEIR best choose to work in Emporia Public Schools.
Another reason is our reputation in the educational community for providing strong professional development, innovative practices, time for individual and collegial planning, and our commitment to Professional Learning Communities. This collaboration allows our teachers to learn from one another and to share successful teaching strategies. The result is high-quality instruction for all classrooms.
I believe these are all factors in our success on Kansas Assessments last spring. This week four of our schools – Logan Avenue Elementary, Riverside Elementary, W.A. White Elementary and Emporia Middle School – are receiving Challenge Awards for making a notable difference in student achievement despite facing significant challenges in their school population.
There aren’t enough awards to recognize the quality work that our teachers and support staff perform every single day of the school year. But another way that the Emporia community honors teachers and other educational support staff is through a valued partnership with the the E.L. & Z. Irene Hopkins Foundation. The Hopkins Awards were established in 2002 as a way of demonstrating a commitment to teachers and school support staff who go above and beyond to make a difference for students. Over the past 13 years, the foundation has given $372,000 to a total of 189 Emporia educators. Anyone can nominate a teacher or support staff member by logging on to the EPS homepage, www.usd253.org/e-l-z-irene-hopkins-foundation/
Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the nostalgia of how “things just aren’t what they used to be.” But in this time when education seems to be a popular target for critics, I am extremely proud of our staff and the work that they do, and I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of our students. Our classrooms don’t look much like mine did years ago. It truly is a new generation of teachers and learners making way for the brightest of futures yet!