Intel Schools of Distinction Earn High Marks

This blog was posted on behalf of Wendy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Intel Foundation.

It may be difficult to imagine a world in which engineers are considered rock stars and teachers get the red carpet treatment. But, as executive director of the Intel Foundation, I’m proud to say I get to help create that world every day.

Last night, I had the pleasure of welcoming leaders representing 18 schools from across the nation to the Intel Schools of Distinction Awards in Washington, D.C.  Dozens of teachers, principals, superintendents, and education thought-leaders enjoyed the limelight they deserve while sharing their recipes for success.  Their stories are nothing short of inspiring.

Schools of Distinction Star Innovator
Representatives of Ossining High School, Intel Schools of Distinction Star Innovator.

When 90 percent of your students live in poverty, low expectations are endemic. At George Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Ala., the decaying school grounds reflected a community’s surrender to generational poverty. But that’s not the end of the story.

After a complete re-staffing and retraining effort in 2004, a new set of expectations took hold. Math proficiency scores in the 30 percent range were no longer acceptable, so George Hall’s students set off on a staggering upward climb – with a dedicated faculty leading the way. Today, test scores are holding steady near the summit of 100 percent proficiency.

While George Hall Elementary students savor the present moment as they study interactive math, engineering, and even finance, they also gain a clear vision of the future. Through programs such as Fast Forward, fourth and fifth graders venture to college campuses to experience higher learning firsthand. “If they can see it, they can own it,” said Principal Agnes Tomlinson, who believes that college and career readiness must be addressed well before high school.

Too many adults go through life mired in limiting beliefs such as, “I’m not a math person,” or “I’m not a scientist.” The fact is that every kindergartner arrives on the first day of school a curious, creative, inquisitive scientist. But evidence suggests that before kids even enter middle school, the mantra, “I’m not good at math and science,” arrests many of their potentially brilliant minds. Intel Schools of Distinction are turning that around.

Meet our Star Innovator – and this year’s winner in the high school science category – Ossining High School in Ossining, N.Y. Inclusion is the name of the game at Ossining High. All students – not just the high achievers – are encouraged to enroll in specialized science courses. The students’ individual interests lead the way toward that magical spark where enthusiasm, curiosity and unrestrained inquiry collide. It’s no wonder that Ossining – a public high school, with no special admissions policies – has consistently produced Intel Science Talent Search semi-finalists – including four students this year alone.

At Ossining High School, technology is woven so artfully throughout the curriculum, it’s like an extension of the students’ hands, fingers, and brains. Laptops, tablets, interactive whiteboards, and Web 2.0 tools make up the Ossining toolkit, and the results are presented at an annual science project symposium. At Ossining, technology is the native language, but not just for the kids. Ongoing professional development keeps teachers in a leading-edge position so they can offer nimble support to their excelling students.

The Intel Schools of Distinction Awards are designed to identify and celebrate schools that put forth more than just great math and science test scores. There is a dimension of academic achievement that can’t be measured, because the world of the future – Intel’s world – evolves at lightning speed. We must prepare our children for jobs that don’t yet exist – not because of a lagging economy, but because the technology they’ll develop hasn’t been dreamed up yet.

The children we’re counting on to drive tomorrow’s innovations are counting on our schools today. We’re thrilled to honor our winning schools and all 18 finalists, who work day-in and day-out to prepare kids for a future that we can’t quite imagine. These teachers and administrators dissolve the traditional four walls of a classroom through the use of connected, interactive technology; their students emerge armed with critical skills for the 21st century workplace.

Congratulations and thank you to each of our winners:

Elementary School Math          George Hall Elementary School

Elementary School Science      Legacy Elementary School

Middle School Math                  TAF Academy

Middle School Science              Penn Alexander School

High School Math                     School of Science/Engineering Magnet

High School Science                 Ossining High School

Star Innovator                         Ossining High School


Many thanks to our generous co-sponsors for making Intel Schools of Distinction a truly enriching event for all of our participants: Adaptive Curriculum, BrainWare Safari, DreamBox Learning, LanSchool, Pearson and SMART.


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About Rachel Sutherland

Rachel Sutherland is the Communications and Media Relations Manager for Intel Arizona. She is responsible for defining and implementing communications strategies to tell the story of Intel’s presence in the state. She also contributes media plans and storytelling on national projects that support Intel’s corporate responsibility initiatives. Follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Ariz.