Doing School Better

Summer 2017 Innovation ECPS News

Foundations of Innovation

School leaders on the North side of Edgecombe County - the "Innovation Zone" - are laying the foundation for innovation in their schools. Priority #1: Ensure every classroom has an excellent teacher. Through the implementation of Opportunity Culture, teams of teachers and school administrators are making sure that the reach of great teachers is extended to more students, and that these excellent educators help their colleagues improve their skills, as well.

This spring and summer, school teams are finalizing hiring decisions, planning for summer training, and revising their schedules to maximize the talents of their teacher leaders. North Edgecombe High School, for example, will have three new positions next year: Multi-Classroom Leaders (MCLs) in the areas of math, science, and English. Principal Donnell Cannon is excited about the impact that these MCLs are positioned to have on student achievement and school culture. "Our MCLs are not only going to provide high-quality instruction for students, but they are going to lead professional learning communities focused on rigorous, inquiry-based, data-driven instruction. It's a true team effort at North - we're all working together to make sure our scholars can realize their wildest dreams." Click here to read the recent Rocky Mount Telegram article about the transformation at North Edgecombe High School.

Coker-Wimberly Elementary School principal, Katie Row, is moving her school to a competency-based, authentic learning model. "We have the staff capacity to get there, and with our Multi-Classroom Leaders and Expanded Impact Teacher on board next year, our progress will be accelerated." At Phillips Middle School, principal Aaron Jones has high hopes for Opportunity Culture, as well. His team decided to hire a Multi-Classroom Leader in math and an Expanded Impact Teacher in science to help students develop the problem-solving skills they need now and in the future. "This is going to be game-changing for our students," he says. "The sky is the limit."

Learning for "Real Life"

Place-Based Learning at Martin Millennium

Superintendent Farrelly is conducting student focus groups as part of the Edgecombe County Public Schools District Visioning process. The feedback from the students has been enlightening, challenging, and surprisingly consistent across schools. One common theme: students want to learn skills that will help them in "real life." The two stories below highlight ways in which teachers are taking that feedback to heart and allowing students to take the driver's seat in their own authentic learning experiences.

From Jayme Hall, first grade teacher, Martin Millennium Academy

Place-based learning is a strategy of teaching scholars state-required curriculum in a place of importance in their own community. We had the opportunity to take one of our first grade classes from Martin Millennium Academy (MMA) to Conetoe Family Life Center, where Reverend Joyner has created a community garden and after-school program for local residents. We visited the center on three separate occasions and focused on a different learning objectives during each excursion. Our scholars were able to interview Reverend Joyner about his recognition of chronic health problems in our community and his solution of creating a free garden for everyone to use. We also planted onions and potatoes, and are going back to check on their growth this spring. Our final trip consisted of engaging with certified beekeepers and learning how bees affect habitats and society.

The hands-on learning has sparked my students' interest in their own community and home, while also catalyzing an increase in the level of their engagement academically, especially in science. They demonstrate this by frequently asking, “When can we go back to Conetoe for another learning trip?” I also feel more closely connected with them; I think our student-teacher relationship strengthened with each trip. To conclude our place-based learning experience, we presented our findings at a conference in Greensboro this March. Our session was a student-led presentation, with middle school and first grade students collaborating to facilitate the discussion. They demonstrated leadership skills when greeting our audience, while articulating what we learned, and in representing our county respectfully. We will be working on expanding innovative practices like place-based education to reach more classrooms in the coming year.

Agriscience at SouthWest Edgecombe HS

From Shelley Armour, Agriscience teacher, SouthWest Edgecombe High School

“Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” That is the Future Farmer's of America (FFA) motto that is over 65 years old, yet still as relevant today as it was in 1952. The Agriculture Education Program and FFA Chapter are tied closely together in the three part education model: Classroom Instruction/Lab, FFA, and Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) . At SouthWest Edgecombe High School (SWE), we do our best to ensure that students not only learn the academic aspects of agriculture education, but grow as citizens and leaders.

Our Agriscience program continues to grow at SWE, and this year the addition of an Animal Science/Veterinary Science track was added that attracted even more students. The classes at SWE are involved in a variety of projects from assisting with community gardens in Pinetops and Conetoe Family Life Center, to raising animals, to learning skills necessary for internships with Smithfield Farms in Edgecombe County. Research has shown that many students learn best by “doing,” and with a 90-foot greenhouse, 10’x10’ raised beds, and animals on campus (rabbits, chickens, and a bearded dragon) as well as visiting animals, students are able to get their hands dirty (literally!) and further understand what they read about in the classroom.

Unique opportunities for hands-on learning abound. Horticulture students are responsible for growing the plants for our Spring Plant Sale, as well as planting the raised beds and helping beautify the campus. The food grown in the raised beds is given to community members and students for their own use. Animal science students raise litters of baby rabbits each semester after breeding the rabbits in class; they are able to practice compassion as well as observe animal behavior and learn to interpret it. This year, students are also raising baby chicks to adulthood and will be distributing the eggs to combat food insecurity in the county.

The ultimate goal of a Career and Technical Education program like ours is to develop skills that students can use in college and their future careers. The program at SWE has recently teamed up with Smithfield Farms to place five students in summer internships within the hog industry, and with Conetoe Family Life Center to place students with their farm/summer camp. These two partnerships are in addition to existing internship experiences, including working at a restaurant, row crop farming, raising livestock, working at a veterinarian, and growing vegetables. The Agriscience Program/FFA Chapter at SouthWest Edgecombe High School is excited to continue to innovate so that we can best serve our students and our community.

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Students Take the Lead in District Visioning Process

While we are still in the midst of our district visioning process, one thing is abundantly clear - our students know where they want to go, and they have lots of great ideas about how their schools can help prepare them to realize their dreams. At our school visits, Blue Ribbon Commission Town Hall meetings, and student focus groups, students across the district have shared their big dreams: going to college, working in fulfilling careers, having loving families, and staying connected to their community. They want their schools to give them opportunities to explore colleges and careers at an early age; courses that are challenging and relevant to their "real lives;" projects that require them to work together and to explore new ideas; and relationships with caring adults. We are excited to continue listening to students and their families and ensuring that they play a powerful role in setting the vision and direction for our school system.

Innovation Around ECPS

  • E+R=O at Tarboro High School: Join the Tarboro High School team on Saturday, May 27th from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM to learn how you can control your Response to an Event, creating more productive Outcomes. Interested in learning more? Contact Coach Andrew Harding for details.

  • Spanish Immersion expands to G.W. Bulluck Elementary School: Next school year, a group of incoming Kindergarten and first grade scholars will be immersed in Spanish at G.W. Bulluck Elementary! Through an expanded partnership with Participate, full Spanish Immersion classes will now be offered at both G.W. Bulluck and Martin Millennium Academy.

  • P.O.W.E.R gains momentum at Pattillo MS, MMA, and NEHS: Students at all three schools report that they love their P.O.W.E.R. Lunch schedules. This innovative approach to scheduling provides students with more agency, while building time into the day for remediation, enrichment, and relationship-building.

  • Collaboration for School Readiness: ECPS, along with colleagues from the Public School Forum, the Edgecombe County Health Department, Head Start, Conetoe Family Life Center, the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services, Teach For America, and local health care providers applied for a "Raising Places" grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The grant would provide this cross-sector team with funding to engage in a year-long design process to determine how to mitigate the effects of early childhood trauma in the East Tarboro community. Grant or no grant, we are committed to this collaboration, which will help ensure our youngest students are socially and emotionally prepared for success in school and in life.

  • AmplifyECPS Summer Camps: The ECPS Technology Department will be offering five FREE camps for ECPS students this summer! Camps include Maker Camp (K-12), Coder Camp (6-12), Coding Kids & Robotics (2-5), Minecraft (6-8), and Green Screen Cinema (6-8). Sound interesting? Call 252-641-2682 to sign up!

What We're Reading & Watching

  • Driven By Data: Learn the keys of data-driven instruction: assessment, analysis, action, and culture.
  • Unlearning is Critical for Deep Learning: "One of the things that we don't talk about enough is the way in which existing commitments can get in the way of new ones." - Jal Mehta
  • How Society Kills Creativity: Watch this 7-minute, heart-wrenching video about what happens in your life when "creativity is drowned out by the daily grind."

Innovation ECPS

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