T.S. Cooley Elementary Magnet School, along with five other Louisiana public schools, was recognized this week by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School. Only awarded to schools once every five years, blue ribbons are awarded to “exemplary high performing schools” or “exemplary achievement gap closing schools.” Calcasieu Parish School Board Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus said Cooley’s “expectation of excellence” makes it truly deserving of its nationally recognized exemplary high performance status.
Principal Emily Alcock said there can often be a community “misconception” that Cooley is a school only for students who are academically gifted. Rather, only one third of students are actually identified as gifted. “True collaboration,” however, is the ingredient that causes the school to rise to the top each year, she explained. “When you’ve got the team of parents, teachers, students, administrators and family all wanting the best for their kids and will all put their heart into it, this is the result of it.”
This year the school is engaged in a learning campaign called “The Power of Yet” allowing students to reach for the possible by engaging in tasks that may be initially impossible. “It’s really is a shift in mind set. In a high performing school, students tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves and strive for perfection. So, it’s about allowing them the opportunity to realize that just because they didn’t get something right the first time, they just didn’t get it ‘yet’ — to allow a student to even feel comfortable to even take that risk is a huge part of what we teach.” With such risk taking in the classroom, skilled teacher leadership is a bedrock element for the school’s success, said Alcock. “Teachers have extreme confidence in their ability to know the needs of each student and to develop them. You can feel the environment they create in the classroom. It’s just a comfortable place to be and when the kids feel safe and happy then learning is naturally going to occur.”
Katie Coyne, fifth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher, said, “T.S. Cooley is an educational paradise. Because everyone works so hard, you want to do the same.”
Like a true paradise and because it accepts students from all across Calcasieu Parish, Cooley is a melting pot of backgrounds and cultures. Alcock said diversity positively impacts student performance presently and in their future endeavors. “When you walk into a room and you can see everything working together seamlessly, it gives me goose bumps because they don’t see any restriction...We teach welcoming differences so that they can recognize the strength that others have and build on it.”
“I wish I could stay at Cooley until I was in college,” said first-grade student Jack Johnson.