Doing School Better

Innovation ECPS News: Spring 2022

In Full Swing for Spring!

We may be in the fourth quarter of the school year, but for the Edgecombe County Public Schools team, the game is just getting started! Big things are happening this spring:

  • Princeville native Sequoya Mungo, founder of BrownLight, Inc., is facilitating our very first official equity audit. The ultimate goal of this audit is to implement new programs, policies, procedures and resources to increase equity for all groups.
  • In conjunction with the equity audit, we are re-centering our work around the ECPS Graduate Aims and developing a comprehensive Graduate Profile and Vision for Learning that will ensure innovative, student-centered learning experiences for all ECPS scholars.
  • Our first three graduates of the Scholar Teachers program are finishing up their internships and preparing to return to ECPS as full-fledged teachers in 2022-23.
  • We are gearing up for Summer Learning 2022! This year, students will have the opportunity to participate in a Bridge Academy and a Career Accelerator, in addition to content-specific summer school programs.

We are grateful for all of the amazing partners who continue to love and support ECPS through thick and thin. From our local firefighters who make time in their busy schedules to attend middle school career fairs (see picture!), to our friends at EdNC who are always willing to spread good news about our work, to our national partners at Transcend, CRPE, TFA, TNTP ... we thank you for believing in our young people and giving them the chance to shine!

Building Community, Improving Early Literacy

ECPS families, teachers, and students are collaborating to make certain that despite the interruptions of the pandemic, our youngest learners become great readers! For the first time ever, ECPS has at least one certified HillRAP instructor in every elementary school. HillRAP teachers and tutors provide intensive reading instruction to small groups of four students at least three times a week, and students’ foundational reading skills are improving as a result. Through our continued partnership with The Hill Learning Center and generous support from the Barnhill Family Foundation, the Mebane Foundation, and the Anonymous Trust, new tutors are trained in Hill methodology and mentored by experienced ECPS HillRAP teachers. As one student shared, “HillRAP makes me glad when I say words right that I have said wrong before. It makes my heart happy!" Read more about the ECPS HillRAP expansion here.

In addition, parents, children, and educators are meeting monthly at four elementary schools to read, read, read! During the sessions, which are designed by TNTP and facilitated by ECPS Multi-Classroom Leaders, parents have the chance to read with their child and try out research-based approaches to reading instruction. We will continue these sessions during the 2022-23 school year, when our teachers will be taking a deep dive into the science of reading through LETRS training.

For more details, check out this recent EdNC article about both of these promising practices!

Rocky Mount Demerger: Insights from the Community

Over 130 stakeholders have shared their hopes and dreams for the future of education in Rocky Mount during “empathy interviews” over the past six months. ECPS Executive Director of Transition and Redesign, Donnell Cannon, is now leading a diverse and committed local design team (pictured here) in the process of gleaning insights from these interviews. Should the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners vote to transition approximately 1800 Rocky Mount students from Nash County Public Schools to Edgecombe County Public Schools, this design team is poised to build innovative learning experiences rooted in their community’s vision.

An early review of data from informal surveys and empathy interviews indicates that Rocky Mount students and families want a bold new school model unique to their community. They believe students can play a critical role in the continued revitalization of Rocky Mount and want them to have opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways while still in school. They are also calling for a focus on early childhood education, strong literacy instruction, and passion exploration. Above all, families want to be sure their children are seen and loved for who they are and what they can become.

More community input is needed! If you have ideas for the future of learning in Rocky Mount, please contact Donnell Cannon at or attend a community meeting from 5:00 - 6:30 PM on one of the following dates:

  • May 3, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rocky Mount
  • May 10, Rocky Mount Event Center
  • May 18, Edgecombe Community College - Rocky Mount Campus

Rocky Mount community members are also invited to share input via this survey. Thank you!

Learning Happens Everywhere

ECPS students and teachers are demonstrating that even though our buildings are back open for business, meaningful learning can and should continue happening outside the school walls! Through Learning Hub + Spoke pilots, students are engaging in both core instruction (hubs) and small-group, interest-based learning experiences (spokes). Often times, their learning takes them outside – into their schoolyard gardens, local businesses, and nearby universities!

At Princeville Elementary, students have spent the past two months in the garden, considering questions like: Why should we eat fruits and vegetables? What kinds of crops grow best in our soil? How might we encourage people in Princeville to grow and eat healthy foods? Students at West Edgecombe Middle (pictured here) recently visited the Design Lab at NC State and participated in an authentic design challenge. And at North Edgecombe High, juniors and seniors continue to explore passions and career interests through Northside Teamship, external learning experiences in the community, and an English course designed around the question, "What makes a good life?".

ECPS Students: Designers, Engineers + Inventors!

The Brick City Engineers Challenge (grades 3-5), STEM Design Challenge (grades 6-8), and Invention Convention (grades 6-8) are competitions sponsored by the Strategic Twin-Counties Education Partnership (STEP). All challenges promote building students' collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Not only do students learn from local industry coaches as they develop their products, they actually become designers, engineers, and inventors themselves!

In the Brick City Engineers Challenge and STEM Design Challenge, students work in teams to identify a problem presented in a novel, develop a plan, and construct and test their design/solution. This year, students in the Brick City Engineers Challenge read the novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. They were challenged to build four historical monuments out of Lego bricks, and build and program a robot to visit each monument. Students in the STEM Design Challenge read the novel The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and were challenged to build a Griever (a monster in the book) out of K'Nexs to capture maze runners. Students also programmed a Cue Robot to move through a maze and shoot Grievers using Nerf darts. Both competitions also had a literacy quiz component.

Students in the Invention Convention worked as a team to create a business plan for a product that would benefit their community. Students also created a 3D prototype of their product using 3D software and 3D printers, and produced a commercial to advertise their product. Students presented their business plan, prototype, and commercial to a panel of judges. Local business leaders served as student mentors and judges for the competitions.

Many thanks to STEP, our local industry partners, and the ECPS Digital Literacy team for making these events possible - and congratulations to all of the ECPS student design teams who accepted the challenge!

Graduate Aims in Action: Spotlight on SW Edgecombe HS

For the past several years, ECPS has been driven by the pursuit of the Graduate Aims - a vision that was created with our students and community. SouthWest Edgecombe High School (SWEHS) educators know that to make this vision a reality, each and every student must be seen, affirmed, and loved for who they are - and who they are becoming. SWEHS’s School Improvement Team (SIT) has made this their top priority for 2021-22. Their initial motivation came from a series of empathy interviews with students. In one interview, a young person shared that SouthWest felt like a place that only welcomed "a certain type of student." Inspired by comments like this, the SIT team began a journey of highlighting inequities in both the community and the school. They engaged in a staff-wide training on equity and explored their role in creating equitable learning environments.

To ensure that SouthWest is a place all students feel welcome, the SIT implemented a POWER/club schedule. Students are hand-scheduled into tutorial groups to help target any unfinished learning. When students are not in tutorials, they participate in their choice of clubs. Students and staff can create and join clubs that vary based on student interest; current clubs include Weightlifting Club, Rap Club, and Anime Club. As you'll see in the pictures below, SWEHS students now have daily opportunities to explore their passions and develop agency in a loving environment that fosters resilience: a true example of the Graduate Aims in action!

What's Inspiring Innovation in ECPS?

First and foremost, our phenomenal students and our dedicated educators inspire us every day! It has been a tough year, but together, we are continuing to learn and thrive.

We also draw inspiration from compassionate, thoughtful young people, practitioners and scholars from near and far. Here are a few to check out:

  • Brooklyn STEAM Center, an innovative career and technical training hub for 11th and 12th grade students immersed within a robust industry environment. Thanks to our friends at Corning, Inc. in Tarboro, a group of Edgecombe stakeholders had the chance to visit the STEAM Center and bring great ideas from NY to NC!
  • Big Picture Learning, an approach to learning grounded in three basic principles: 1) Learning must be based on each student’s interests and needs. 2) Curriculum must be relevant to the student and allow them to do real work in the real world. 3) Students’ growth and abilities must be measured by the quality of their work and how it changes them. During the NY visit, the Edgecombe team saw an amazing Big Picture school in action: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom HS in the South Bronx.
  • In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School. Authors Mehta and Fine offer three critical elements for fostering deep learning: mastery, identity, and creativity.

If you know of people and ideas we should be learning from, please email Erin Swanson, Assistant Superintendent for Innovation and Strategic Planning, at!

About Innovation ECPS

Problem solvers. Creative thinkers. Entrepreneurs. World Changers.

Our mission at Innovation ECPS is to create the conditions for our students to become transformational leaders - now and in the future. We learn from our community, seek out cutting-edge solutions to our greatest challenges, pilot promising ideas, and scale strategies that work. Click "Follow" and subscribe to this newsletter to learn more!