In three years, 64 percent more fifth graders at Chase City Elementary School passed the social science portion of Virginia’s standardized tests. Forty two percent more of these same students passed the math exam. The school is one of six receiving the 2001 Chase School Change Award, which is given annually to schools that have dramatically improved students’ academic accomplishments. The award is given by Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education and the Chase Manhattan Foundation.

“The six award winners are all institutions that have changed despite the odds and have risen from acceptable levels to exceptional levels,” said Lew Smith, Ed.D., associate professor and director of Fordham’s Center for Educational Research and Leadership. These awards represent only one aspect of Fordham’s commitment to education by developing and supporting school leaders. Other Fordham programs include The National Principals Leadership Institute, the VIA (Visionary Instructional Administration) Leadership program and the Carpe Diem program, which works with and supports New York City school leaders.

The Chase School Change Awards bring national recognition and a $2,500 grant to six principals from across the country who have met the challenge of leading school change. This year’s winners are: Chase City Elementary, Chase City, Va.; Dale Elementary, LaMesa, Calif.; Government Hill Elementary, Anchorage, Alaska; Gustav Fritsche Middle School, Milwaukee, Wis.; Hallendale Elementary, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; and Louis Fox Academic-Technical High School, San Antonio, Texas. A blue-ribbon committee selected the winners out of 60 nominees. The committee is comprised of educators, school leaders, foundation officials and leaders in business, the arts, non-profits and government. The schools had to meet at least 10 out of 16 criteria, which together indicate that they have experienced substantial, rather than superficial, change.

“I think we are a school that is constantly in the process of change,” said Hilda Puryear, principal of Chase City Elementary, a school in a low-income community in Virginia. “When you have shared leadership, as Chase City Elementary has had for over three years, more people have a chance to speak, and that’s very valuable input.” According to Fordham’s Smith, an added benefit of this contest is its promotion of conversation and self-reflection. In order for a school to be nominated, it has to conduct an intensive, introspective analysis within the institution to prove that it has changed. Even if the schools find they are unable to meet the nomination criteria, they are still able to benefit from the information attained in the self-analysis, Smith said.

In addition to national recognition, the winning schools will also be used as research sites for other institutions. Fordham has invited the six principals to attend the National Principals Leadership Institute, held at the University in July, where they will share their stories with school leaders from across the country. The winning schools will be honored in a ceremony held on July 9, the first day of the National Principals Leadership Institute.