Courtney Wilburn, who is in her seventh year as principal of White Plains Middle in Calhoun County, has been named middle school principal of the year by the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS).

Under her direction, White Plains Middle has become noted for innovation.  For instance, the school works hard to narrow the achievement gap between general education students and those with special needs.  So they have developed classes where both the regular teacher and the special education teacher work in tandem.  Teachers must get special certification to co-teach.  And While Plains Middle is the only school in Alabama with four of these classes.

Wilburn is also pleased with the school’s progress in using standards-based grading.  With this approach, students are graded on exactly how well they understand the content of their subjects.  This helps students know just what their strengths and weaknesses are and also lets parents know how best to help their children.

Think of it this way.  The coach says overall the athlete is a B grade football player.  But specifically they are told that while they can catch a football very well, they need to learn how to block much better.

White Plains Middle began going in this direction five years ago and Wilburn says, “It has changed the way we do school.”

Wilburn’s success has not gone unnoticed.  She trains all principals in the system on how to effectively use data to guide instruction.  She is also mentoring three new principals in Calhoun County.

Speaking of “gaps,” every time I learn of someone like Courtney Wilburn and the work they are doing with our children, I am reminded of just how wide the “reality gap” is between what is actually happening and what some politicians and ed reformers want us to think is happening in classrooms.

Our tip of the hat to Courtney Wilburn.