April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Follett Challenge: Winning Stories | Sponsored

Follett_Belleville_300px So often, the stories you hear about education are riddled with news about funding crises, achievement gaps, and failing schools.

But those are the stories that make the news. And those are the stories Follett Challenge—a contest that rewards innovation in K-12 teaching and learning— is trying to change.

Sponsored by Follett School Solutions and the brainchild of Chuck Follett, retired CEO, Follett Challenge awards $200,000 in goods and services to deserving schools. Follett Challenge is proof, while true innovation is constantly evolving, educators today don’t need to start their stories from scratch. The groundwork has been laid by winning schools: The programs have been created. They’ve been measured. They’ve been tested. They’ve won.

In the inaugural Follett Challenge, through its winning arts integration program, Ocoee Elementary School in Florida illustrated how its librarian, Isabel Chipungu, led the charge to connect the media center with classes like art and music by weaving curated content into the arts curriculum.


2013 grand prize winner, Maplewood Richmond Heights, told a story about transformation. It evolved from imminent state takeover to a destination district for students in St. Louis, Missouri through its service learning program. In this small but mighty district, elementary students learn about biology through the chicken farm outside their classrooms. High school students learn statistics by counting the number of times a bee pollinates the flowers in the garden. The food pantry on campus, run completely by students, connects the district with the community by ensuring no students’ family goes hungry.

In September, a video team visited Belleville West High School, the 2014 grand prize winner to record student and staff reaction to winning Follett Challenge and the school’s pleasure reading program. What’s remarkable about this school is its winning program begins with the power of story. While simple by design, it took guts and leaders who were willing to take a risk.

If you walk through the halls of Belleville West, you’ll find students sitting on the ground by their lockers reading the novel of their choice. You’ll find football players comparing notes on the latest Geoff Herbach book. You’ll find teachers, scrambling to finish their lessons so they can make sure their students get 30 minutes of pleasure reading time.

Four years ago, the English department launched the 1,000,000-page reading challenge. Led by the department chair, librarian and assistant principal, teachers had administrative approval to spend valuable classroom time allowing students to read for fun. As a result of this program, the class of 2015 will have read more than 4,000,000 pages by the time it graduates and improved its test scores by 40%. The power of a story. It doesn’t take expensive technology. It doesn’t take an unlimited education budget. In its simplest form, it takes innovation. Just as the stories in those books empower Belleville students to believe they can achieve, Belleville’s story can empower any school willing to take a chance.

The folks at Follett are looking for more stories. We know there are so many more stories just waiting to be uncovered in our future winning districts. So don’t be afraid to share yours.

Visit FollettChallenge.com and begin your entry today for a chance to win a share of $200,000 and the opportunity to tell your winning story.

6-Oct-14 2014-2015 Follett Challenge Applications Open
9-Jan-15 Follett Challenge Entries Close
19-Jan-15 Video Voting Opens
30-Jan-15 Video Voting Closes
13-Feb-15 Semi-Finalist Announced
30-April-15 Grand Prize Winner Announced on or before
Back to School-16 Winning Celebration

This content was contributed and sponsored by Follett School Solutions.