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QTL News & Stories


"Changes Come at You Fast"
July 2008

Administrators from Sussex County, VA tell peers how their district achieved a turnaround in student performance, and how QTL helped them get there.

sussex countyHOT SPRINGS, VA - Sussex County School District was highlighted during the 2008 Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals Conference held June 30-July 2nd in Hot Springs, Virginia.

Dr. Nancie Lightner, Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Arthur Jarrett, Principal at Sussex High School and Nancy Coner, Principal at Sussex Middle School led a session entitled "Sustaining the 'Turn Around'-Changes Come at You Fast."

The group tackled the questions that many underperforming schools ask, such as 'under demanding time constraints, how do you replace the pieces in a puzzle to create a different picture of your school? Then, how do you sharpen the focus and maintain the clarity of purpose?'

In a roundtable discussion, the three outlined how they have taken Sussex County Schools from being one of the state's lowest performing, to higher levels. Coner, a middle school principal, says her school has never been accredited in Virginia and as she awaits final end of year scores, she is hopeful that this year the school will both make AYP and be accredited.

"When I first came to the middle school, it had never been accredited and the math pass rate was in the mid 35's. We've made some significant strides this year and I attribute it to the hard work of the teachers in the school," she says. "But, I have to say, had it not been for QTL, we would not have been able to pull this together."

As for the high school, Dr. Arthur Jarrett told the discussion group that QTL helped to clarify the goals for the school.

"QTL helped us to create a more unified voice," he says. "All of a sudden we all had the same understanding of research-based strategies and were able to competently discuss instructional issues and to make some good decisions about what actually improves student performance."

Dr. Nancie Lightner, assistant superintendent for Sussex County Schools, told the group that she began at the system just two years ago and her first task was to build a stronger staff of highly qualified teachers.

"We had teachers who had let their certifications expire and some who were on provisional licenses and were never fully qualified to teach," she says. "We now have about 96% of our teaching staff who are HIGHLY QUALIFIED."

After staffing issues, Lightner says communication was a problem in the district.

"We know there is no magic bullet. Until we had QTL, we knew what we wanted teachers to talk about, but we weren't able to create that critical communication piece. QTL gave us solid ground for discussing student needs and instructional issues and all of a sudden, teachers began to take ownership of the progress being made. They started talking about MY class and MY test scores.

"It gave me a great feeling just listening to them in their professional learning communities discussions," says Lightner.

Most of the other districts in the discussion asked the Sussex panel questions about creating change and sustaining it.

"We just can't say enough about what QTL has done for our school district," says Lightner. "We are proud of the work we have done and we know that without QTL, it might not have happened or happened so quickly. And we owe this to our kids."

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