U of A COEHP IMPACT Fellow Is Beating the Odds for Student Outcomes in Little Rock, Arkansas

U of A COEHP IMPACT Fellow Is Beating the Odds for Student Outcomes in Little Rock, Arkansas

Stacie Breshears (’17) was a successful fifth-grade teacher at Wakefield Elementary School in Southwest Little Rock when her principal, Leslie Taylor, approached her about applying for the first cohort of the U of A IMPACT program. Breshears knew she had Taylor’s support as a mentor, so she was confident in preparing to join the leadership team at Wakefield if or when a formal position became available.

As a reading teacher, Breshears knew in spite of her school serving more than 97% students from poverty, including a large English language learner population, they had an incredible opportunity to focus on student academic growth to help the students begin catching up to their grade level peers. Through coaching conversations with her IMPACT Director of Support Erika McMahan, Breshears developed a plan including vertical alignment of curriculum for grades 2-5, creation and use of rubrics, new approaches for improving writing skills, and a laser focus on data analysis. Upon approval from her principal to move forward, she set about leading her colleagues from her informal leadership role as a classroom teacher, knowing her IMPACT training had prepared her to be an agent of change in her school.

Teacher Stacie Breshears takes time for a student.
Teacher Stacie Breshears takes time for a student.

The results at Wakefield Elementary were immediate and reflected incredible student growth in the areas of both mathematics and English language arts. In 2017, the school was recognized for the first time by the U of A Office of Educational Policy as being in the Top Ten of all elementary schools in the state for student academic growth. Wakefield also led the central region in both English language arts and mathematics growth that year.

But, Breshears and her colleagues at Wakefield Elementary weren’t content with making gains just one year. In a testament to the leadership of both Stacie Breshears and her principal, Leslie Taylor, Wakefield Elementary in Southwest Little Rock has sustained this phenomenal level of growth every year since that students have taken state-mandated assessments. In fact, the school has been recognized by OEP for five straight years as a Beating the Odds Award winner because the students consistently outperform expected outcomes based on the poverty status of the student population.

As the Little Rock School District elementary school with the highest poverty rate each year (97.85% in 2023), Wakefield Elementary has built a reputation locally for achieving phenomenal student academic growth. Wakefield annually leads the school district’s elementary schools in student growth based on ACT Aspire and NWEA assessment scores in the areas of both mathematics and English language arts.

Stacie Breshears credits her school’s tremendous success in recent years to that series of conversations she held with her IMPACT support coach back in 2016, along with the knowledge she gained through her IMPACT coursework and internship experiences. Her leadership efforts have recently been rewarded through the promotion to a new role as assistant principal at Wakefield Elementary when principal Taylor followed through on his commitment to promote her to a formal leadership position at the first opportunity to do so in 2022. The confidence principal Taylor placed in both Stacie Breshears and the IMPACT program has definitely been rewarded as the school he has now lead for more than 20 years has been identified as an authentic shining star among schools in central Arkansas.

Principal Leslie Taylor meets with teacher Teacher Stacie Breshears.
Principal Leslie Taylor (left) meets with teacher Teacher Stacie Breshears.

The IMPACT Arkansas Fellowship Program is a leadership preparation program provided by the University of Arkansas and funded by the Walton Family Foundation. The fellowship’s purpose is to prepare future leaders in low-income schools throughout Arkansas. Fellows receive a Master of Education in Educational Leadership upon completion of this 18-month program. To date, the program has prepared 105 graduates for school leadership positions, and more than 90% of IMPACT graduates are working in high-poverty Arkansas schools today. The program’s 8th cohort was recently selected, and these new fellows will begin the program in June. More information on the program can be obtained at impactfellowship.org.

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