Doing School Better

Innovation ECPS News: November/December 2017

The Future of Teaching in ECPS

"The Scholar Teachers Program is an innovative way for high school students to learn about the role of teachers first-hand," says Edgecombe Early College High School student and Scholar Teacher Elijah Williamson. This year, seven juniors and five seniors, selected through a rigorous application process, are taking college education courses and earning credit towards a 4-year degree in elementary or secondary education, with the goal of coming back to Edgecombe County to teach after graduation.

The new Scholar Teachers program is the first of its kind in eastern North Carolina. The program focuses on social justice and features curriculum written by the North Carolina State Teacher Cadet Cadre, rigorous college coursework, and hands-on experience in the classroom. This fall, Scholar Teachers began weekly internships that allow them to experience the realities of the classroom, while collaborating with a lead teacher to effectively engage students in learning. Interns at three ECPS schools -- Martin Millennium Academy, W.A. Pattillo Middle School, and Princeville Elementary School -- are learning how to develop strong relationships with students, providing one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions, and actually teaching lessons! "The internships provide our scholars with the opportunity to learn in a real-world environment, while also adding value to ECPS classrooms in unique and distinctive ways," says Tunisia Bulluck, director of the Scholar Teacher Cadet Program at the Early College.

The EECHS students are enthusiastic about the Scholar Teachers program and their internship experiences. Senior Ateonya Whitaker, pictured above, says, "For me, the Scholar Teachers program has carved a pathway to my future. I was unsure of what I wanted to be, and with this program I have found my passion. I enjoy working with children and seeing them grow. I am thankful for this program, and I am excited to continue on this journey as an educator." Edgecombe County stakeholders are excited to see the Scholar Teachers grow in their leadership and come back to serve their community in the years to come!

Preschool Hits the Road!

Exciting news for preschool families -- ECPS plans to have a mobile preschool bus on the road by January 2018! An existing school bus is being retrofitted with a generator, a wireless signal for an IPad lab, and age-appropriate furniture, and will travel to locations throughout Edgecombe County to offer playgroup sessions to 3 year-olds with special needs. The classes will be facilitated by a certified preschool teacher and assistant, and will be held on a daily basis to help students develop academic and social-emotional skills that will lead to their success in school. ECPS will also offer a 3 year-old class that that will run Mondays through Thursdays from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm at one of our school sites, for families preferring that option. The school system will actively encourage families to take advantage of this unique new program, which will give students with disabilities an extra year of exposure to high-quality instruction in preparation for Kindergarten. The ECPS Exceptional Children's Department is exploring grant opportunities with Vidant and Rural Forward to provide supplemental funding for the preschool bus.

A Culture of Coaching

Inspired by our colleagues in Charlotte's Project LIFT, as well as our very own Multi-Classroom Leaders in the Innovation Zone, Edgecombe County Public Schools is committed to developing a culture of coaching throughout the district. And we're not talking about coaching on the athletic field (although that's important, too!) -- school and district administrators, as well as teacher leaders, are learning to coach teachers to excellence in the classroom.

In The Mirage, a 2015 report from The New Teacher Project (TNTP), researchers share that despite the significant investment that school districts are making in professional development for teachers, most teachers do not appear to improve substantially from year to year -- in part because school systems are failing to help teachers understand their areas for growth and how to improve. Rather than suggesting that school systems do away with professional development efforts, the authors of The Mirage make several recommendations, two of which point directly to the need for personalized professional development:

  • Define “development” clearly, as observable, measurable progress toward an ambitious standard for teaching and student learning
  • Give teachers a clear, deep understanding of their own performance and progress

This is where coaching comes in! With the support of our partners, including Denise Watts and Erica Jordan-Thomas from Project LIFT, Public Impact, NELA, and New Leaders, ECPS leaders are learning to support teachers in the "See It, Name It, Do It" approach to observation and feedback, developed by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo and outlined in the books Leverage Leadership and Get Better Faster. Coaches briefly observe classroom instruction, and then meet with teachers to help them see the progress they are making towards their goals; clearly name their areas for improvement; and then practice the new strategies they will implement even before they try them out in front of students. This type of coaching is not reserved for teachers -- ECPS is working towards the day when district leaders, principals, assistant principals, and teacher-leaders are all receiving regular coaching to help them improve their practice.

Administrators and Multi-Classroom Leaders in the Innovation Zone, comprised of Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, Phillips Middle School, and North Edgecombe High School, have gotten a jump-start on implementing a coaching framework as part of their Opportunity Culture efforts. While some might predict that receiving more frequent and direct feedback would be intimidating for teachers, educators at these schools report that it has instead created an atmosphere of collaboration. Jessica Parker, Principal Resident at Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, says that their team is now more likely to, "willingly engage in data-based conversations to find high leverage points to improve our practice and student outcomes." And students feel the difference, too; Caroline Joyce, Assistant Principal at North Edgecombe High School, says, "Our multi-tiered layers of support are transparent to our students, and they know that we are all working together to give them the best learning experience." That is the ultimate goal!

Reimagining Education in Edgecombe

The picture to the right was taken in the early 1900's ... but schools today don't look dramatically different. The world is changing rapidly, and yet schools are lagging behind, and our students and communities are suffering. Here in Edgecombe, we are working to change that. Here are a few of the ways we are "reimagining education:"

  • In October, a design team from Edgecombe County joined district and school leaders from across the country at the first Collaborative convening. The Collaborative, a partnership between Transcend and the NewSchools Venture Fund, is supporting this select group of schools and districts to engage in a year-long human-centered design process. At the end of the year, ECPS and the other participants will emerge with a "canvas" for a completely new school model. The ECPS team plans to build on the foundation being laid in the Innovation Zone to redesign the learning experience for students in the North Edgecombe HS feeder pattern. Simultaneously, the entire District Leadership Team, comprised of all 14 ECPS principals and district administrators, and the ECPS Blue Ribbon Commission on Educational Equity, a group of students and community leaders, are engaging in a series of activities and discussions to inspire thinking about the possible future for all our students and schools across the district.

  • Princeville Elementary School will join Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, Phillips Middle School, and North Edgecombe High School as an ECPS "Restart" school in the 2018-2019 school year. "Restart" schools have more flexibility than traditional schools when determining how to use resources and design programs, enabling district and school leaders to think outside the box about how to best serve students. The Princeville Elementary School building, which has been vacant since it was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, will be renovated, and students will return in 2018. Students, families, and school leaders are currently collaborating to design the educational programs that the "new" Princeville Elementary School will offer starting next fall -- stay tuned!

  • Instead of trying to make small improvements to the traditional approach to teaching and learning -- where teachers talk and students listen -- middle school math teachers in ECPS are learning to let students lead the way. Middle schools throughout the district have adopted Open Up Resources' Illustrative Mathematics curriculum, which is deeply rooted in discovery-based learning. During a geometry unit, “students learned about adding angles in a triangle through cutting up triangles as partners and noticing how when you line up the angles so that the vertices are on the same point, they make a flat line, which they know from prior knowledge equals 180 degrees," says Vena Holub, math teacher at W.A. Pattillo Middle School. With this new approach, "scholars at Pattillo have ownership over math and are gaining critical life skills such as collaboration and independent thinking," adds Holub.

  • Freshmen and Sophomores at Edgecombe Early College HS are designing their ideal new school building! Scholars have been working in teams to develop a vision for their new school design, create realistic blueprints, and draft budgets for school construction. They are meeting with the ECPS Transportation and Maintenance departments in early November to present their initial plans. Should funding be made available for capital projects, these scholars will be ready with their plans!

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