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Algebra teacher Allison Felton solves student engagement equation, earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Maryland math teacher works out tough problems with problem students at Annapolis High  

January 24, 2018

SANTA MONICA, Calif.,  — The tougher the problem, the more satisfying the solution. That's what students learn in Allison Felton's algebra classes at Annapolis High School. And it's a larger life lesson as well, as Felton works with high-needs, behaviorally challenged students who come through with flying colors, and higher test scores, after taking her classes.

But it was Felton who was flying high after a surprise school assembly this morning, where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon and Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken. An awestruck Felton was named a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Maryland this year, and is among the 44 honorees for 2017-18.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Aiding high-performing students as well as their more-challenged peers, Felton has lifted college readiness levels at Annapolis by promoting critical thinking skills, global awareness and student engagement. Boosting her AP students' academic test results and increasing the size of her school's International Baccalaureate program, Felton's eclectic and adaptable approach incorporates anything and everything that works, including: innovative teaching strategies, data-driven student assessments and new educational technologies.

"Great teachers like Allison Felton prove every day that education is the best investment America can make," said Milken.

"Allison Felton is the quintessential mathematics teacher: someone who sets a high bar and works tirelessly with her students to make sure they meet every expectation," said Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. "Her creative teaching methods inspire her algebra students to understand complex material, master concepts and most importantly learn to love math."

"Across our county, every single day, we have incredible teachers go to extraordinary lengths for their students," said Dr. George Arlotto, Superintendent, Anne Arundel County Public Schools. "All too often, that work goes underappreciated by those outside our school system. The Milken Family Foundation's generous award to Allison Felton today is not just a recognition of her outstanding work, but an inspiration to educators everywhere."

About Milken Educator Allison Felton
At Annapolis High School (AHS), students know that Allison Felton will do whatever it takes to help them succeed in math. The district places a strong focus on ninth-grade success; Felton was hand-picked to work with ninth-graders on the Early Warning Indicator list, students who struggle with attendance, behavior and grades. Despite their struggles in other classes at the high-needs, highly diverse school, they all thrived in and passed Felton's Algebra I class. Even students who lack confidence in their math skills say they know they will succeed with Felton as their teacher. And they do: Felton's students showed 20% growth from 2015 to 2016 in Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) year-end assessments for Algebra I. She works equally well with both high- and low-performing students: In the three years Felton has taught AP Calculus at AHS, an International Baccalaureate (IB) World school, she has increased both the average AP exam score and the size of the program.

In her classroom, Felton uses multiple IB Middle Years Program (MYP) strategies. Students answer debatable, conceptual and factual questions; employ reciprocal questioning, where students quiz their peers on class content; and exemplify "thinking in action" by sharing questions with the class on large whiteboards. As a member of the school's MYP Synergy team, Felton has led school-wide professional development on IB tenets like increasing the effectiveness of global awareness, as well as educational technology, instructional strategies, data tracking and assessment, and strategies to support kinesthetic learning. Felton leads the AHS Algebra I team, which has become a beacon of success around the county and now works with the Algebra I teams at two other high-needs schools in the district.

Felton has written Algebra I curriculum used throughout the district and helped schedule review sessions at AHS for PARCC assessments and AP tests. She acts as the backup department chair when needed, mentors pre-service teachers, and was one of two classroom teachers asked to participate in structured walk-throughs as part of the principal's rating process. Felton co-chaired a 12-day Summer Bridge program AHS hosted for rising ninth graders, managing the educational activities, staff budget, field trips and logistics of daily breakfast and lunch for 130 students.

Felton earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 2010 and a master's in teaching in 2011 from the University of Pittsburgh.

More information about Felton, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Allison-Felton.

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Felton's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawardswww.twitter.com/milkenwww.youtube.com/milkenaward, and http://instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell
 

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
russolynne@yahoo.com