O’Neill Middle School wins $30,000 as Follett Challenge semi-finalist

Downers Grove Grade School District 58 announced last week that Follett named O’Neill Middle School a semi-finalist in the Follett Challenge.

As part of the recognition, the school was awarded $30,000 and it will have the opportunity to compete for the grand prize: An additional $30,000. The district said the award will fund academic goods and services, such as books and e-books, that will benefit all of District 58.

Last month, the district asked the community to vote for O’Neill’s Conquest of the Realm video in the Follett Challenge. District 58 thanked the community for their votes, which it said helped O’Neill achieve this award.

“We were so excited waiting for the results,” said Tasha Squires, library teacher at O’Neill. “As we sat and watched the clock count down I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I really was hoping we would be awarded one of the People’s Choice awards. To see our video come up as one of the three semifinalists was an incredible feeling and moment.”

The Follett Challenge is a national education contest that awards prizes to the most innovative schools in America. The first prize school will receive $60,000, and three semi-finalists will win $30,000.

Ten People’s Choice winners also will be awarded $8,000. The People’s Choice awards will be based solely on how many public votes applicants receive for their videos. In addition, 20 percent of the grand prize and semi-finalist prizes will be based on viewer votes.

O’Neill submitted a video to the Follett Challenge that highlights its innovative Conquest of the Realm library program. Conquest of the Realm used creative games and competitions to motivate 80 percent of the student body to voluntarily read more books, write book reviews and create book trailers, among other activities.

Previous voluntary library programs only netted a 17 percent participation rate. The program took place during the 2013-14 school year and into the summer. Fall 2014 MAP scores showed that O’Neill students made significant academic gains and avoided summer academic regression, which was likely helped by the Conquest of the Realm program.

During the Conquest of the Realm program, students produced 217 catalog reviews, 63 character stories, 42 blog entries, 34 book trailers and 30 original stories.

The People’s Choices winners and semi-finalists were selected Feb. 13, and the grand prize winner will be announced April 30. The judges looked for applications that illustrate critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration among students, teachers and school staff.

For more information about Follett or the Follett Challenge, visit www.follettchallenge.com.

Leave a Reply