How ‘Team Excel’ is helping Virginia students dominate in a game of success
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -A program that turns good grades, perfect attendance and excellent behavior into a healthy competition for students at participating schools has taken success to the next level for area youth, and organizers hope more local school divisions will adopt it.
It’s been compared to the likes of fantasy football, but in reverse for education.
Team Excel creates healthy competition in the classroom where students are the “athletes” and teachers, along with community mentors, are the “coaches.” The program is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Johnathan Mayo.
“Team Excel is a digital platform where we use the power and excitement of teamwork and competition to help motivate students to do better in school and in life,” said Mayo, whose mother taught in Richmond Public Schools for 37 years. “In our very first pilot program, we actually saw a 27% increase in grade point averages, and we really think that was from peer-to-peer accountability.”
Here’s how it works: Students at participating schools are divided into teams. Those teams, sometimes an entire grade or homeroom classroom, can create their own name and logo.
Once that’s set, the competition within each school can begin. Each team will compete for points using “success metrics” set by organizers at the school. Those metrics can include attendance, behavior, grades and community service. The automated score is updated daily for teams at each school. Bi-weekly or monthly prizes, including field trips, are rewarded.
“It’s not just the competition that’s kind of the fun element, but it’s also teaching them those life skills, coping skills, teaching them how to be a good teammate,” said Mayo, who launched the program in 2014. “We think it’s inherent, but sometimes we have to be taught that.”
When the pilot program started at Varina High school with just 30 students, Mayo noticed a significant increase in student achievement. The pilot program produced a 27% increase in grade point average over a four-year period, according to Team Excel’s website.
Findings from a survey conducted by researchers at Randolph Macon College also showed growth in motivation, school attendance and submitting assignments on time. The survey also reveals that students believe more in themselves to accomplish their life goals.
Sequoia Brandon is in her second year at The Academy at Virginia Randolph, one of ten schools participating in Central Virginia. There’s also one school in Easton, PA and another in Staten Island, NY.
At AVR, Team Excel is known as “Team Legacy.” There are teams across four divisions.
Brandon, who plans to join the Air Force, tells NBC12 she has seen a lot of personal growth.
“I’m in a way better position than I was in when I walked in here,” said Brandon. “It’s also helped me with socializing. A lot of people, including myself, are shy, we don’t really talk. But Team Excel gets you out of your comfort zone.”
Kirsten Morvan, a testing coordinator at the school, tells NBC12 she has noticed a lot of improvements in grades.
“Students are very motivated by the team aspect of Team Excel, we call it Team Legacy here at VR, but they really encourage each other to do well to get their grades up,” Morvan said. “The motivation is definitely needed to give kids a sense of belonging within the school system and realize that what they’re doing doesn’t just impact them, but impacts a larger being which is their team or their community.”
Right now, 3,500 students across 12 schools are a part of Team Excel. Mayo hopes to get more school districts involved locally and abroad.
The organization is also looking for community partners to help provide more resources.
“Through Team Excel, you can be a mentor or guest speaker,” Mayo said. “If you’re a company, you can sponsor a school or donate prizes and incentives, so it’s a way for everyone to get involved.”
If you’d like to learn more about Team Excel, you can visit their website here or fill out a contact form here.
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