WENDELL — The state Department of Public Instruction recently lauded eight Title I elementary schools in Wake County for reaching the highest level of performance on statewide assessments – and half of the schools are in eastern Wake.
Carver Elementary, Forestville Road Elementary, Lockhart Elementary, and Zebulon Elementary were four of the eight “highest-performing reward schools,” meaning they achieved a higher level of student performance during the 2012-2013 school year than 90 percent of other Title I schools in the state.
Dillard Drive Elementary, Kingswood Elementary, Reedy Creek Elementary, and River Bend Elementary were the other “highest-performing” Title I schools in the county.
Title I schools are those with at least 40 percent of their students coming from low-income families. The eastern Wake schools are among 174 Title I schools DPI recognized for reaching the high or improved student performance.
Melanie Rhoads, director of Title I programs for Wake County Schools, said should be impressed by the high end-of-grade testing scores at the reward schools.
“(The scores) indicate that the teachers, teacher assistants, and administrators at these schools have focused on individual students and have ensured that they made strong progress toward achieving grade level standards,” Rhoads said. “This type of collaborative school culture requires dedication on everyone's part. It is time consuming, exhausting, and exhilarating. Being named a Reward School is definitely a badge of honor!”
This is the second year in a row that Carver Elementary and Zebulon Elementary were recognized as reward schools. Leaders at those schools attribute their students’ success to a common practice: teachers giving more individualized attention to students.
Carver Elementary, for example, holds meetings every Wednesday where teachers review individual students’ struggles with administrators, grade counselors, and an instructional resource teacher. The group then forms a “strategic plan” for helping each student improve in their problem areas, said Carver Elementary Principal Katherine Faison.
“Let’s say a student doesn’t recognize rhyming words. A teacher might sit down with that child one-on-one before class to go over index cards of rhyming words with them,” Faison said.
Faison also uses Title I funding to pay her teachers for working individually with struggling students 10 Saturdays each spring.
Principal Marion Evans uses similar tutoring tactics at Zebulon Elementary. Four years ago, she began asking teachers of extracurricular courses to aid core-class teachers with struggling students three days a week.
In addition to putting an emphasis on one-on-one student instruction and using resources like iPads and Smart Boards, which are paid for by Title I funding, Forestville Road Principal Dianne Pridgen credits data-driven teacher planning for enhancing her students’ education.
“We’re proactive in looking at ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness,” Pridgen said.
“Our professional learning teams get together and review test results to see how teachers are teaching the curriculum,” she said. “Did students in one class perform better (in a certain subject) than students in another class of the same grade level? If so, did one teacher teach (the topic) differently than the other?”
Pridgen noticed that improved teaching practices are paying off across Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon.
“I’m so proud of our staff and our students,” she said. “We’re shining.”