Barlow-Vincent Elementary Principal Stephanie Starcher was called upon recently to share some of her school's strategies for making sure children get even more than a year's worth of learning in a year's time.
Barlow-Vincent's "value-added" scores on state tests have been "green" in recent years, meaning students are exceeding the amount of learning expected to take place over a year. The school's value-added scores in science are in the top 10 percent of schools from the 121 districts in Battelle for Kids' Soar Collaborative. Starcher was one of five speakers on the value-added topic at a recent conference held by Battelle, an Ohio-based, national not-for-profit organization that provides school improvement advice.
"She's clearly one of the most innovative, creative, great leaders we have in the state," said Bobby Moore, senior director of strategic engagement for Battelle.
Times file photo
Barlow-Vincent Elementary School Principal Stephanie Starcher greets students on the first day of school in August.
Starcher gave all the credit to the teachers at the school, as well as the students learning the material.
Question: What does it mean that Barlow-Vincent is among the top schools in terms of "value-added" science scores?
Answer: Value-added measures student growth from year to year. It's a standardized measure to see where students get because we recognize in education ... that kids don't come to us on an even playing field. Some kids come to you from preschool, from a socioeconomic background that includes a lot of educational opportunities. ...
- Age: 38.
- Residence: Dunham Township.
- Family: Husband, Jeff; daughters, McKinley, 7, and Sydney, 5.
- Occupation: Barlow-Vincent Elementary School principal for five years. Adjunct faculty work as needed for graduate courses at Marietta College, Muskingum University, Ohio University and Ohio Dominican University.
- Experience: Principal at Warren Elementary, three years; Bartlett and Cutler elementaries, four years.
Barlow-Vincent in the past couple years has had very positive overall value-added scores. ... Kids are making more than the gains we would expect them to make. Instead of just being rated effective, as a school it's allowed us to be rated excellent.
Q: How was this achievement accomplished?
A: A lot of hard work by our staff members and our students. ... I think that's accomplished because our teachers work together. They have had more expectations with less resources, and they work together. When we have team meetings, department meetings or faculty meetings, our focus is always on instructional strategies, how we're teaching; curriculum, what we're teaching; and then student work. And so I think we've had this effectiveness because we are so focused on that.
Q: What did it mean to you to get to present at the Battelle conference on behalf of your school and staff?
A: I think it's acknowledgment of their hard work. It's not me; it's those teachers working together. And I think it was just an affirmation that when teachers are working together and we're focused on what's best for kids, we can get results.
Oftentimes in education, we'll say, 'Well, we need to do this research-based program' or 'We need to adopt this ... policy.' And I've always believed as an educational leader that what's most important is we need to have our staff working together and (emphasizing) what's best for kids.
One of the greatest assets at Barlow-Vincent is phenomenal teacher leadership. And that's not paid leadership. It's teachers who just on their own constantly want to get better. ... We kind of have this internal model of 'Self-improvement is non-negotiable.' You can always get better.
Q: So it sounds like you're saying more than one strategy can work, as long as teachers work together and have what's best for students in mind.
A: There's never one right way. There are multiple approaches. We try to stay abreast of the research. ... But the key is you've got to pick one or two things that you think is going to make an impact on student learning and do a good job with it.
Q: What put you on the path to becoming a principal?
A: I decided I wanted to be a teacher because I enjoy sharing knowledge with others, and I enjoy working with kids. I taught five years and knew that I wanted to be in a position of leadership where I could make decisions that had ... a broader influence. And so I pursued my principal's license and doctorate, and my superintendent's license.
Evan Bevins conducted this interview.