Team Success A School of Excellence in Bradenton, a charter school serving about 300 elementary and middle school students from the poorest neighborhoods, has climbed from an “F” school to an “A” school in just two years, after a concerted effort by school administrators and teachers to raise student performance.
“We set our minds to do it and we did it,” said CEO and principal Fredrick Spence, who took charge of the school in 2007. “We motivate students to want to learn,” added Spence, who comes from a sports background and uses sports motivational techniques to inspire teachers and students.
Team Success charter school was opened in 1997 by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office as the Police Athletic League Academy to serve students in at-risk neighborhoods threatened by gangs, drugs, violence and poverty. It is now independent of the Sheriff’s Office. After years of dismal student test scores and consistent “F” ratings for the school, the board of directors was faced with shutting the school down or turning it around.
Enter Spence, a Sarasota County school administrator, who came up the ranks from high school physical education teacher and coach. Spence had played football at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and earned his master’s degree in Education Administration from Northeastern University in Chicago.
One of his most drastic moves, in 2009, was to fire all the teachers and have them reapply for their jobs. Of 15 teachers, only six were rehired. “The best way to be successful is to surround yourself with people who are outstanding and passionate,”
Students are tested throughout the year to make sure they are on track, including state and district mandated assessments, as well as three of Team Success school’s own assessments.
The school also makes sure the students’ needs are met so that they are ready to learn. For example, the school partnered with Prevent Blindness Florida, a nonprofit organization, to pay for vision screenings for all the children. Nearly a quarter of the students were found to have vision problems and were provided with free glasses. “We do what we have to do,” said Spence. From school supplies and back packs to winter coats and shoes, the school finds a way to make sure no student is distracted from learning.
“From the bus drivers to the maintenance workers to the teachers, everyone here looks after the students,” said school director Amiee Fleming. “We’re a family and we take care of each other.”
Cash rewards and other incentives play a big role in motivating the students. At the beginning of each school year, students are rewarded for their previous year’s FCAT performance in a big celebration that can be best described as an academic pep rally. They earn cash from $50 to $150 for each passing score in Math, Science, Reading and Writing.
While money is the carrot, the sense of pride and accomplishment is the reward. “It is our primary goal for our students to achieve at their highest level, and in order for them to be able to do so, we foster their intrinsic motivation,”
“We celebrate academics like America celebrates sports,” Spence said.
Team Success charter school is located at 202 13th Avenue E., Bradenton, FL 34208. Telephone: (941) 714-7260 ext. 257. Website: www.teamsuccessschools.com.