Three Inspirational US Schools Named in Top 10

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Shortlists for New $250,000 “World’s Best School” Prizes

Three inspirational US schools have been named in the Top 10 shortlists for the new $250,000 World’s Best School Prizes, launched this year by T4 Education in partnership with Accenture and American Express.

Curie Metropolitan High School, a secondary school in Chicago, and Oak Knoll Elementary School, a public co-ed in Menlo Park, California, have both been named in the Top 10 shortlist for the World’s Best School Prize for Supporting Healthy Lives. Westside Elementary, a K-5 community school in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, has been named in Top 10 shortlist for World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration.

The five World’s Best School Prizes, founded by T4 Education in partnership with Accenture, American Express, Yayasan Hasanah, Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the Lemann Foundation, celebrate schools everywhere for the pivotal role they play in developing the next generation of learners and for their enormous contribution to society’s progress especially in the wake of COVID.

Vikas Pota, Founder of T4 Education and the World’s Best School Prizes, said:

“With over 1.5 billion learners impacted by school and university closures, COVID has greatly exacerbated a global education crisis in which, even before the pandemic, the UN warned progress was already too slow to achieve universal quality education by 2030.

“We have launched the World’s Best School Prizes as a grassroots solution to help build the systemic change needed. By telling the stories of inspirational schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference to their communities, schools can share their best practices and have their voices heard at the top table to help transform education.

“I want to congratulate Curie Metropolitan High School, Oak Knoll Elementary School, and Westside Elementary for making the Top 10 shortlists for the inaugural World’s Best School Prizes. Educators all over the world will now be able to learn from the examples of these outstanding US schools.”

About the schools:

Curie Metropolitan High School, a secondary school in Chicago, US, helps break down barriers for disadvantaged ethnic minority students and promote healthy lives through an extensive art programme that allows them to thrive in traditionally exclusive spaces. 

Based in the southside of Chicago, the area around Curie Metropolitan High School has long been deprived. Marred by poverty, gun violence and deprivation, there is pervasive sense of danger where even a walk to school can feel unsafe. Since 2019, the area has seen crime rates increase by 13% and shootings increase by 58%. The students, most of whom are from ethnic minority backgrounds, reflect the poverty and desperation that the community faces. Chicago has been reported as one of America’s most economically and racially segregated cities.

 

The school offers integrated health services and programmes to ensure that all pupils are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Curie is known for inclusion instruction for social and emotional learning. In its view, supporting healthy lives also includes enrichment opportunities, particularly through the arts. 

The school has a dedicated arts programme to tap into the talents and ambitions of its students, offering a broad range of classes such as dance, drama, animation, orchestra, choral, electronic music, art, sculpture, gorilla art, and theatre tech. 

The school’s art projects are often the result of collaborations with companies and other community actors. The Dance Department recently partnered with the NBA, Chicago Bulls, and Endure Charities to perform in an event to bridge the community with dance and sports, focusing on an inclusive culture for underserved students. Students also worked with Kern Studios, an art studio in New Orleans, to build a float using a design the students came up with. Eventually, they performed in the parade on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, which was televised across the nation. Students can participate in an art club sponsored by Brighton Park Neighbourhood Council, allowing them to collectively work on community-based projects to liven up and beautify the neighbourhood. The Adidas Sound Lab gives students the opportunity to write, produce, mix, and promote their own original musical scores that are submitted and shared globally. 

Oak Knoll Elementary School, a public co-ed in Menlo Park, California, USA, promotes emotional and mental wellbeing from the moment students walk through the door and are greeted with a student-led morning news broadcast set up by the school counsellor. The broadcast ends with the words “Together, we are Oak Knoll”, reinforcing students’ sense of camaraderie and closeness. During the pandemic, KNOL switched to a new phrase: “Together or Apart, we are Oak Knoll''. 

This ethos runs throughout everything the school does. Catering to over 600 children from diverse communities, Oak Knoll Elementary School has worked hard to ensure all its students feel included and valued. Teachers greet their students by the door each day by name, breakfast is provided for whoever needs it and the school counsellor works closely with every class to build resilience and emotional support. The institution is guided by the principle that everyone within the school is part of one big family and in order to support students in their endeavours, both they, the parents and the wider community need to be nurtured as well. 

This work is supported by the myriad programmes Oak Knoll Elementary School runs such as a mental health centre that helps families, small scholarships to allow students who come from lower resourced communities to participate in after-school clubs, and gift cards that are given out during the holidays that are used in grocery stores. The Silicon Valley Bike Exchange provides bikes to students who request them and the school partnered with their local bookstore Kepler's so each classroom mirrored the diversity in its community with material that is diverse in its characters and storylines.  

Westside Elementary is a K-5 community school in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, United States, whose core belief is that nurturing children and their parents with love and compassion allows young people to thrive. It’s not uncommon to see a mother call a teacher when she runs out of baby formula or families going through the school’s food pantry. At Westside Elementary, the wellbeing of its students and the people in their lives takes precedence over all else and it partners with a number of organisations to achieve this.                                 

The school is one of the most diverse elementary schools in the local area. 

When it realised that some parents and caregivers needed extra support with English language skills, it took action by partnering with a local adult education organisation, The Literacy Network, to provide adult classes in English as a second language.  

Collaborating with the Rooted Family, a group that teaches mindfulness, the school holds parenting classes twice a year for six weeks. Classes teach strategies based on brain development, building healthy relationships between parents and their children, and supporting parents in raising confident children. The school also puts on healthy cooking and active lifestyle classes for families with another partner, University of Wisconsin Extension - Nutrition department. Partnering with a local church, therapy support groups are arranged for those suffering from bereavement.  

Next steps:
The Top 3 finalists for each of the five World’s Best School Prizes - for Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity, and Supporting Healthy Lives - will be announced later this year. After a public advisory vote, the winner of each Prize will be chosen based on rigorous criteria by a Judging Academy comprising distinguished leaders all across the globe including academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and the private sector. 

The winners will be announced in October 2022 at World Education Week. A prize of US$250,000 will be equally shared among the winners of the five Prizes, with each receiving an award of US$50,000. 

All 50 shortlisted schools across the five Prizes will share their best practices through toolkits that showcase their “secret sauce” to innovative approaches and step-by-step instructions on how others can replicate their methods to help improve education everywhere. 

 

ABOUT T4 EDUCATION: 

We believe every child everywhere deserves a good education. We are building the world's largest community of teachers and schools to achieve this. Together. Our digital media platform provides opportunities for educators to network, collaborate, share good practices, and support each other's efforts to improve learning. We work to amplify teachers’ voices because the world we want to see will only be built by listening to those at the heart of education. 

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