Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hurray for Banneker!

g-four star school 01-30-06
copyright 2006 ljm

GARY-Beating the odds takes dedication.
Leading the way in academic success within the Gary School District, Banneker Achievement Center has again

been selected as a Four Star School for 2004.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed announced Monday, that of the states 1,870 schools 198

earned the award, the state's highest distinction. Banneker has received the designation for 16 years in a row,

Principal Sarah Givens said.
She credits the school's success to good leadership skills, smart students and a great staff.
"It helps when the students come in with high potential. My key thing is discipline and being consistent in what

you are doing," she said.
Winning schools won't get money but will receive a certificate.The award is based on overall attendance rates,

student achievement on the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus.
In spite of a school size of about 500 students and class sizes that can count as high as 28 pupils and almost

no racial diversity, the ISTEP scores at Banneker have greatly exceeded state averages for the past six years

according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.
Reed said in a press release that individual school corporations receiving the award should be proud.
"...Schools are models of high-level of performance and achievement," she said.
Givens, who has been principal at Banneker 14 years, can often be seen sitting not in her office but in one of

the brightly colored alcoves in the hallway and in the doorway of the school. The children gravitate to her,

when seeking affection and respect her when getting redirection. Her pep and stylish attire match her

voluminous personality. In other words, beating the odds takes dedication.
"I'm in the hallway all day long and in the classes and popping up in the children's lives. Everyone knows where

I am--no one has to look for me," Givens said.
Givens said teaches work late, stay late and on lunch hours and take pride in their school. Givens said she

rewards her teachers with praise or help when needed to keep morale up. She recognizes hard work.

Teachers at Banneker grade about 90 papers a day.
"We live in Gary, Indiana and i realize we have environmental conditions that can hamper learning but what is

on the outside, stays on the outside. What I do in this school will depict the kind of lives they will live tomorrow.

The children buy into the school and have high-self esteem," she said.
Givens said other schools in the district can do it if they do the same things that are happening at Banneker.
She said she would be happy to share her techniques if ever placed in a leadership position within the district.

She was a resource teacher for 15 years where a part of her job was writing curriculum. She has had various

positions as principal for six years throughout the district before landing at Banneker in the 1990s. In all she

has 20 years experience as a leader of educators.
Aiding the school's success is her form of school management, named departmentalization.
Givens said kindergarten and first grade teachers have self-contained classrooms but in grades two through

six, one teacher teaches one subject each.
"After 14 years, don't you thing they would become experts? When test scores come out I can look at those

individual teachers," she said.
A state-accredited public school qualifies for the Four Star designation by meeting Adequate Yearly Progress

as defined by The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The school must perform in the top 25

percent of all public schools in the state, in student attendance rates, mathematics proficiency scores,

English/language arts proficiency scores, and the percent of students passing both mathematics and

English/language arts.
Also designated Four Star schools in Northwest Indiana are Franklin Elementary School in Griffith, Southridge

Elementary School in Highland and four schools in Munster; Munster High School, Wilbur Wright Middle School,

Ernest R. Elliot Elementary School and Frank H. Hammond Elementary School.

Mary Jane Michalak, a communications specialist for the Indiana Department of Education, said achieving the Four Star designation 16 years in row is quite an accomplishment.

She said the Education Roundtable is considering including a best practices portion so that schools like Banneker can pass what they know on to schools that may not be doing as well.


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