Honoring schools that defy the odds: Spotlighting Marie Riviere Elementary

I once had an administrator tell me that in school buildings there are 3 types of educators: walkers, joggers and runners. Walkers are those that do the bare minimum to get by and are quite content with not seeing many results. Joggers are those that work well but not well enough to truly make a change. Runners are those that work hard for change, chasing results and willing to grow.

I was honored to join Mallory Padgett and Keith Leger with Stand for Children, BESE member Jim Garvey and many other State leaders on a school visit to Marie Riveria Elementary School. We were welcomed on campus by the principal. Mr. John Starr.Principal

Immediately we could feel his passion and could detect the positive growth mindset that he had with a focus on continuing of improvement. As he began sharing his school’s story of success, we couldn’t help but notice his flexible approach to meet the diverse array of student needs based off of his school’s demographics serving approximately 500 students in grades Pre-K through 5. Due to their students’ growth, they earned the recognition of a Top Gains School along with an “A” on their school report card. You see, the school is classified as high poverty, high performing with over 75 % of their students on free or reduced lunch and 39% of their students classified as English Language Learners (ELL). Poverty is a strong predictor of lack of academic success in reading, and schools serving high-poverty populations are more likely to show weak performance in high-stakes tests. Despite their obstacles, the students continue to defy the odds and thrive in a positive climate with high standards.

Due to their students’ growth, they earned the recognition of a ‘Top Gains’ School along with an “A” on their school report card. Additionally there is a strong sense of teamwork across all grade bands. The teachers enjoy their jobs and are actively involved in high levels of collaboration and communication with one another.Principal and teachers

During their collaborations, they identify problems and work on a set of solutions. The teachers recognize that there are significant barriers for the students however, they also recognize that all students can learn and meet rigorous standards.

After observing a day of work at Marie Riviere Elementary School, it’s quite evident that the educators in that building are runners by nature. When walking through their classrooms, I saw a diverse set of learners all engaged in the lesson while the teacher was applying his/her skills of differentiated instruction that was aligned to the standards.principal and school

The students are encouraged to make good choices with the knowledge of knowing that their choices define who they will become. Their focus is achieving a shared vision and understanding their role of achieving that vision. As I observed their little minds engaged in learning, I couldn’t help but think of how narrow the achievement gap would be if all schools would model this type of mindset. Their strategies are effective and their data speaks for itself. Thank you to the hard working educators at Marie Riviere Elementary School for your dynamic work. You are empowering our state’s most precious resource…our students.




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