Manasses City Public Schools
Grades: PK – 4
2015 America’s Best Urban Schools Award Winner
Weems Elementary School serves over 700 students in grades pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade. Students at Weems Elementary School take ownership of their learning, setting regular academic goals throughout the year and graphing their own progress. Their teachers apply a Learning-Focused Schools instructional framework across all grade levels, implementing evidence-based instructional strategies that incorporate writing across content areas and higher order thinking. Reading, math, and STEM instructional coaches, along with push-in ESOL teachers, support the work. Students also choose multi-grade-level elective courses through a school-wide enrichment model that provides each Weems Wildcat the opportunity to explore their gifts and talents.
|Students with Disabilities||7%|
Cheers and jubilation immersed Weems Elementary after receiving the America’s Best Urban Schools Award from NCUST in 2015. The Title I school of 726 students, located in historic Manassas City, Virginia, reveled in the validation of their unrelenting dedication to student success. Enthusiasm ran high, but a challenge presented itself; how could Weems sustain the momentum in closing the achievement gap with a diverse school community that had surpassed 70 percent Economically Disadvantaged and 60 percent English Learners? Leaders thought “Why not take advantage of what we learned at the NCUST National Symposium in Dallas and continue to investigate how fellow NCUST winners are striving forward?”
Principal David Rupert was afforded the opportunity to travel to Miami and Fort Worth to visit fellow NCUST winning schools as a former winner. One word resonated with him after both trips: PRIDE. You can’t fake it; it must be nurtured and developed. Pride is at the core of a strong school culture. Staff must see purpose in their role as part of a larger school community to ensure the steadfastness of a pride-based culture. Inspired by his visits, Mr. Rupert implemented a systems leadership model empowering stakeholders to actively participate in the decision-making process with student outcomes being the primary goal. The paradigm shift began with the creation of leadership opportunities including grade level leads, content leads, PBIS leads, committee leads, collaborative planning time and a Professional Learning Team including a representative from each site-based system. Seeing evidence that their voices were being heard, staff members shifted from being led to leading with pride.
Weems also continued to expand upon its Talents and Gifts (TAG) theme, enhancing the academic experience and helping students find their voices in leadership. The purpose was to provide high-end, self-directed learning and talent development for all students. Teachers adapted the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM), founded by educator Dr. Joseph Renzulli, to build TAG Elective Cluster Courses and work to infuse authentic opportunities into everyday learning. Students self-selected one of 25 clusters based on shared interests and career exploration opportunities. Working as practicing professionals, students met with community-based experts to investigate real-life career pathways, educational backgrounds, and day-to-day job responsibilities. Applying advanced content and methods discovered throughout their TAG cluster, products and services were developed. Weems young professionals pridefully showcased culminating projects for an authentic audience of parents, staff, and peers who engaged in interviews with student experts. Through TAG, the Weems community has worked to build character while fostering an atmosphere rooted in self-reflection, creativity, and collaboration.
The word “pride” has eliminated the word “can’t” at Weems Elementary. Teachers CAN effect change. Students CAN impact their own learning. ALL students CAN surpass the standard and they proved it on the 2017 Standards of Learning (SOL) state test. During the 2016-2017 school year, third and fourth-grade students at Weems surpassed state averages in the Economically Disadvantaged and English Learner categories for math and reading by at least 14 percent. Collectively, Weems students exceeded the state averages by at least 5 percent in all subject areas. This performance earned Weems Elementary a visit to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond to receive the inaugural 2017 Governor’s Award for Innovation and Education in the area of Closing the Achievement Gap.
Pride is defined as “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” Systems leadership put Weems teachers at the helm of the ship driving toward productive working relationships aimed at proving statistics wrong. Children became professionals and professionals became leaders. Self-reflection and goal setting set the foundation for continuous growth, accountability, and ultimately pride for all members of the school community. Pride truly creates a cycle of success that is long-lasting and self-sustaining; just walk down the hallways at Weems to see its impact.