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Using Improved Curriculum to Turn Around Title I Schools

Interview with Michelle Fleming of Lake Park Elementary

by Dr. Rod Berger

Michelle Fleming is known for her ability to turn around Title I district schools, but in June of 2016, she faced one of the biggest challenges of her career. Hired as Principal of Lake Park Elementary School in the Palm Beach County Florida, Michelle’s job was focused on restructuring and improving the overall learning environment of the school. As she points out, “Stagnation had become the status quo,” and in many classrooms, the entire curriculum had to be scrapped as the school focused on overhauling its program to improve student performance and engagement.

Using a doer’s approach, Michelle knew she had to accentuate the following: 1.) Get teachers to enthusiastically involve themselves in the process of getting things done, and 2.) Find a program that could be utilized to help drive the change. The program i-Ready from Curriculum Associates was chosen for its engaging instruction in reading and mathematics to address students’ individual needs.

Title I schools have a unique set of issues, and Michelle knew that a single program like i-Ready that integrated powerful assessments with useful insight tools would allow teachers to make more informed instructional decisions and produce better widespread results. Additionally, Michelle wished to give all children, including the school’s English learners, equal access to a curriculum that motivates students to take hold of their personalized growth.

Teacher buy-in became a top concern during the process of implementation, but Michelle’s nerves soon turned to exhilaration as she witnessed everybody working together. “Once everyone saw what was happening and the difference from one year to the next as far as a greater number of students at grade-level proficiency, it was awesome.”

The initial improvements and success at Lake Park Elementary School demonstrated the beginning of a fantastic journey toward improved education year after year. According to Michelle, “We continued to grow and ended up ten points away from an ‘A’ last year.” A school with 98.86% free and reduced lunch found a way to get off the state’s low 300 list and is steadily reducing the number of students performing more than a grade level below. ”It’s a great feeling to facilitate the change,” said Michelle.

It may be the teachers that do the heavy lifting, but it takes leadership like Michelle Fleming’s to implement and support the appropriate curriculum to drive success.

About Michelle Fleming

Michelle Fleming cropMichelle Fleming has dedicated her nineteen year career to improving academic outcomes for children at TITLE I schools in the School District of Palm Beach County in South Florida. Michelle has served as teacher and/or administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is an energetic, skilled and dynamic educational leader that has a proven track record of increasing student achievement, collaborating with school communities, effective problem solving and monitoring the application of curriculum.

She is currently the very proud principal at Lake Park Elementary School in Lake Park, FL where she’s been able to improve the school’s overall accountability rank by 85 points in two years time. Since Michelle has been the principal at LPE, she has been able to get her school off the State of Florida’s list of lowest 300 performing schools in the area of reading proficiency. Michelle lives in West Palm Beach with her educator husband Derek and their two children Athena and Brayden.

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