Ocean View's Journey: From Non-Accredited to Blue Ribbon

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    Since Ocean View Elementary School was recognized in 2008 as a National No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, I have been repeatedly asked how a school with our demographics (64% free and reduced lunch, high transient rate, both white and African-American populations in the mid-forties) can have such high student achievement with little or no achievement gaps. In other words, how in the world did we take our school from low performing and non-accredited in 2002 to Blue Ribbon in 2008? The answer is data-driven decision making and intervention, intervention, intervention. Let me share Ocean View’s story.

    Like many schools in Norfolk and across the state of Virginia, Ocean View struggled during the first years of state mandated testing. Our proficiency scores remained low and flat during the first three years of this accountability testing because we continued to simply do more of what we were already doing.  We worked really, really hard, but we kept doing more and more of the same thing and, consequently, got the same results. 

    Luckily, my school district, Norfolk Public Schools, was quick to recognize the need for change and provided support and opportunities for principals to study new, research-based strategies for changing what we were doing.  In the summer of 2001, I joined a number of principals and central office staff in Denver at the Center for Performance Assessment (now the Leadership and Learning Center) for training in data-driven decision making.  I came back to Ocean View full of great ideas for collecting, organizing, and using data to guide and improve instruction.  I knew what I needed to do, but I faced a lot of push back.  Change is very hard and teacher resistance was great.  I simply did not fully implement my plans.  We did start some frequent common assessments.  We did create data notebooks to collect and organize our student assessment data.  However, there's collecting data and, then, there's using data.  We still were not providing focused, data-based interventions for our students.  Our scores that year remained flat.  In the end, I had to accept that the responsibility for student achievement in my school rests squarely with me, the school principal.  The lack of improvement in student achievement was a failure of my leadership to fully implement the data-driven decision making model.  I knew what I needed to do, but I simply did not get the job done.

    This was a time of reflection for me.  I needed support and the district provided that support.  In the summer of 2002 I asked to join another group of administrators returning to the Center for training in the development of data teams.  That training, along with my recognition that I needed to be bold and willing to take risks, led to the reorganization of Ocean View — Ocean View moved from the old site-based management model to a data-driven decision-making management model.  We fully implemented this new organizational model during the 2002-03 school year and it worked! Our upward trend in student proficiency started then — and the teachers began to see the value in data-based decision making.

    Last year, we set our goal at 95% proficiency for the 2008 tests and we met that goal in 7 out of 11 state accountability tests, with 100% of our fifth grade students scoring proficient in both reading and writing and at least 90% of all third, fourth and fifth grade students proficient on all state tests. Teachers at Ocean View, always hard working and dedicated, now see the results of all their efforts.  High student achievement is the key to teacher buy-in.

    Now all decisions, from teacher assignments to scheduling to budget to instruction, are truly driven by student data that is collected and analyzed in a consistent and systematic way. Everyone, especially me, is held accountable for student achievement.  Content vertical data teams use student data to develop instructional and intervention strategies that focus on specific individual student needs based on frequent common assessment data.  They then track the effectiveness of their own strategies with more assessment data.  The results have been dramatic.

    THIS TIME I did what I knew needed to be done and, despite a lot of initial push back, today Ocean View students are achieving at high levels due to the instruction provided by teachers who NOW use student data to determine what interventions need to be done and hold THEMSELVES accountable for student achievement.  At Ocean View we have proven that demographics do not predict student achievement.

    What does this intervention look like?  In future blogs, I will talk in depth about the specifics of our intervention plans, especially in reading and math.


    For more information about Ocean View Elementary, read "Virginia School Drives Up Achievement With Data-Driven Decisions" in The Achiever — March 2009 Vol. 8, No. 1 (The No Child Left Behind Newsletter).

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