Jody-Anne Jones, the principal of North Star Academy Clinton Hill Middle School of Newark in New Jersey, for the past six years, has received the 2018 Ryan Award, the highest education award in the United States, in recognition of her exceptional school leadership. The Jamaican-born educator– originally from Manchester – was one of only two principals to be presented with the award.
Jones told The Gleaner newspaper that when children come to the Clinton Hill school as fifth-grade students, they generally lag behind students from richer districts on state examinations, but by the time they are in eighth grade, these students close that performance gap. Jones noted that her students outperformed their peers by nearly 30 percentage points in math and 15 percentage points in language.
Much of the work Jones does ensures that teachers are trained to help students to think critically and build the core values of respect, care, and responsibility. She went on to say that she makes every effort to ensure her students have opportunities while inspiring her staff to go beyond the basics for their students. Jones said that many of her students had difficulties with reading comprehension and taking a “rigorous” examination, so she and her staff implemented a program designed to strengthen their reading skills. The program, which was aimed chiefly at fifth graders, encouraged them to read a million words in order to win an award. This program significantly helped students with their comprehension and exam results. Additionally, every English classroom in Jones’s school has a library. Jones said that receiving the award has only moved her to work even harder to develop the potential of her students.
The national Ryan Award honors urban principals who work to close the achievement gap between children who come from economically challenged environments and those who come from more affluent backgrounds.
Photos courtesy of North Star Academy