A group of educators from Ascension Parish schools spent a week on Harvard University’s campus participating in the university’s Closing the Achievement Gap Summer Institute.

Nicole Grimes, principal at Lowery Middle School in Donaldsonville, and Dawn Love, principal at Lowery Elementary said they deepened their understanding of how to successfully use proven methods — many already in place at their schools — to bridge the achievement gap.

“It was inspiring, and we came back with a lot of ideas,” Grimes said, ideas they’re in the process of implementing into their curriculum.

“We’ve been meeting with our teams about it,” Love said, referring to Teacher Advancement Program groups that incorporate master teachers who coach classroom teachers throughout the school year.

They already use some of the methods they learned at the institute in some form as a TAP school, Grimes said.

The two principals have the added benefit of sharing a campus, and that makes it the perfect location to test out some of the ideas, which center around creating a family-like atmosphere in each school and classroom and bringing the community — and students’ families — into the schools on a more regular basis.

But while they hope to see results at Lowery Middle and Elementary, the lessons won’t be limited to those schools, Love said.

They plan to share what they’ve learned districtwide.

“Every school has an achievement gap of some kind,” Love said. “We want to make everyone progress.”

The application process for participation in the program, June 28 to July 2, was extensive, said Jackie Tisdell, public information officer for the system, and the trip was funded by the system.

The women and other team members who attended the institute met with Assistant Superintendent Steve Westbrook and Director of School Improvement Jennifer Tuttleton last week to talk about how they can integrate the strategies learned at the institute into the district’s Turnaround Zone, which includes all Ascension Parish’s TAP schools, Tisdell said.

In Ascension Parish, the TAP system, which promotes professional development to improve educator effectiveness, is in the 10 schools in what’s called the Turnaround Zone program. The program brings special initiatives, such as TAP, to those schools that are struggling or have struggled in the past.