SCS discusses school improvement plans

Published 8:46 am Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Stanly County Board of Education is using recent state school grades, county-level data research and survey results from students, staff, parents and community members to plan its next moves.

The board held a special meeting to discuss the data and planned action.

Using the information it gathered, administration created one-year, three-year and five-year plans for improvement and development in areas ranging from transportation efficiency to the system’s cohort graduation rate.

Danny Poplin, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said the plan is to have all county schools meeting or exceeding growth by the end of year one, keeping up the pace after that.

While the system has broader performance goals, those have been broken down into smaller categories to track progress and gauge effectiveness. Those areas include the attendance rate, overall school performance grades, grade-level proficiency in all subjects, recruitment and retention of teachers, professional development opportunities for staff and more.

Superintendent Jeff James said he wants to offer a wider variety of opportunities for homeschool and home-bound students.

The staff also want to see the child nutrition program participation rate increase to 65 percent in five years, up from the current 52 percent for lunch.

Poplin said the system hopes to be at a 55 percent participation rate by the end of this school year.

The schools have an even lower participation rate in breakfast and hope to see that increase, as well.

The system is eyeing its hardware, as well; by year three, “100 percent of all Stanly County Schools classrooms will contain an interactive panel,” according to the presentation. By year five, “100 percent of network equipment will be upgraded to handle capacity of 10 GB connection.”

The system also wants to gain the Advanced designation on the Digital Learning Progress Rubric by June 2021 and the Target designation by June 2023.

Administrators also took a businesslike look at customer satisfaction, stating the need to not only improve hard data, but to better the community’s opinion of the schools. One particular area of concern was increasing the public’s opinion of county schools’ safety. The goal is to boost the percentage of “community stakeholders” who “feel safe” from 75 percent at the end of year one to 80 percent in three years and 85 percent in five years, according to the presentation.

The school system also wants to see more involvement from the community, boosting volunteerism in the schools by 5 percent by the end of year one, 10 percent by the end of year three and 15 percent by the end of year five.

Longer-term goals were also set. By June 2019 — the end of year one — the school system plans to have a “task force consisting of school, district-level and community leaders in order to develop a facility needs plan,” according to the PowerPoint. By June 2021, that group will ideally have a 10-year “master facility improvement plan,” updating that plan by the five-year goal of June 2023.

Endy and Oakboro schools

Kelly Dombrowski, principal of Oakboro STEM School, and Karen Nixon, principal of Endy Elementary School, each presented their individual plans for their schools.
Oakboro, which was reopened last year as a Choice STEM school, and Endy both received D grades on the state school report cards for the 2017 year. When the grades were released in September, James asked for the public to be patient as Oakboro’s school develops.

Dombrowski said her main goal for the 2018-19 year is to move the school from a grade of D to at least a C, ideally higher.

The principal noted that the school’s math and science proficiency rates are the school’s lowest, noting that students performed best in reading and English language arts.

“Our goal is to increase math proficiency to 60 percent in the first year, with an eventual increase to 75 percent within the three-year timespan, using the third- through eighth-grade math EOGs,” she said. “We hope to do this and plan to do this by providing all students with rigorous enrollment in writing as well as math goals and instruction that will reflect proficiency on their EOG scores.”

Students seemed to learn well in the classroom, but didn’t perform as well on tests.

“… It was as if they just kind of went blank,” Dombrowski said. “So what we’re focusing on this year is blending the two. There’s STEM, and we work very hard to incorporate that, but this is what it’s going to look like when you take a test, when you take a test like the eighth-grade EOG. We spend a lot of time coaching our teachers already about stopping in the midst of the lessons, stopping in the midst of the PBL (problem-based learning) and saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to need you to step back, and when you see this, it might look like this on the EOG you’re going to take.’ Already, we have started to see some of that.”

The school also plans to continue improving its English language arts and EOG proficiency rates. Dombrowski also plans to “provide consistent and effective communication through the implementation of PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports),” which the school is currently using.

Dombrowski said she also wants community stakeholders to to have a better perception of the school’s communication, going to 80 percent satisfaction by the end of year one and 90 percent by the end of year three.

She’s also working with staff to make sure they are prepared, and looking at other areas to help ensure students learn and are prepared for assessments. She added she hopes to see more volunteers come in to help the students.

Nixon, principal of Endy, said the English language arts proficiency rate for the school was at 46.2 percent for the last school year.

“Our overall math proficiency this past year was at 49.7 percent in grades three through five,” Nixon noted, adding that both the ELA and math proficiency rates experienced a decrease last year.

“Our ’why’ is we want to increase our student proficiency,” Nixon said, noting the rates are a motivator for improvement.

“Our one-year school improvement goal is to increase reading grade-level proficiency by five percent to 51.2 percent, as measured by our end-of-grade testing grades,” she said.

“Then we have a three-year goal of increasing that reading grade-level proficiency by 15 percent to 61.2 percent.”

Staff will have an increased amount of “collaborative team meetings” this year. Using data from some of the school’s assessment tools has helped shine a light on areas that need extra attention, she said.

“Our school improvement goals for math, again, to demonstrate a 5 percent increase in our grade-level math proficiency from 49.7 percent to 54.7 percent,” Nixon said. “And then our three-year goal is to demonstrate a 15 percent increase in math grade-level proficiency in grades 3-5 form 49 to 64.7 percent.”

Nixon said teachers use 30-minute “intervention times” with a focus on math and reading. As with students in Dombrowski’s school, she also uses information from iReady and mCLASS to help assess students and learn what help they need in each area.
Nixon said she is also exploring options to add professional development opportunities, including in math, and used money from collected box tops to hire substitutes so Endy teachers can visit master teacher classrooms to learn new tips and tricks.

Board chairman Melvin Poole asked Nixon if she felt her staff have bought in to her plan to improve the school.

“There’s a huge sense of accountability for all of us, and it’s a very hardworking staff,” Nixon said. “We’ve done a lot of reflection as far as what direction we need to go in, and I feel like everybody is on board.”

The board went into closed session following the presentations. Upon returning to open session, the board took no action.

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.