Doing School Better

January / February 2017

Happy New Year from Innovation ECPS!

2016 brought Hurricane Matthew and the devastating floods that enveloped many parts of Edgecombe County. It also brought out the best in our community, including many student leaders who stepped up and organized food drives, neighborhood cleanups, and began researching and advocating for different flood policies in the future. This is the sort of leadership we want for all of our children. It’s the sort of leadership that takes a very different kind of education to support.

2017 brings an opportunity to turn these hopes into reality. Throughout Edgecombe County, we are already doing just that. Before the holidays, the forward-thinking ECPS Board of Education enthusiastically endorsed the creation of an "Opportunity Culture" throughout the school system, and an "Innovation Zone" on the North side of the district. Our schools are embracing a culture of innovation, piloting promising ideas like parent/community walk-throughs, POWER schedules, and student advocacy projects. And our students continue to inspire us with their leadership and compassion by spearheading ongoing Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. This is a community that is Focused, Connected, and Ready to "do school better" in 2017. Happy New Year!

Building an Opportunity Culture for All

Design Teams from the ECPS North side "Innovation Zone" - Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, Phillips Middle School, and North Edgecombe High School - met in December to begin the hard work of developing an Opportunity Culture for their schools. Sound intriguing? School and district leaders in Edgecombe County are partnering with Public Impact to implement Opportunity Culture, which is all about extending the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within budget. More excellent teaching = more student learning. An Opportunity Culture for all!

ECPS will be the fourth site in North Carolina to implement Opportunity Culture (OC). OC is having a significant impact in the three initial sites - NC schools that implemented OC with fidelity doubled the odds of high student growth and halved the odds of low student growth compared to similar schools statewide. ECPS will be piloting this work in the "Innovation Zone" during the 2017-2018 school year, extending the model to the Tarboro/Princeville schools in 2018-2019, and implementing in the South side feeder pattern and Edgecombe Early College HS in 2019-2020.

Throughout this winter and spring, the "Innovation Zone" schools will be rethinking how school will look when they open the doors in 2017-2018. They'll be designing new roles for excellent teacher leaders and creating authentic teacher teams, with the goal of providing their students with exceptional teaching during every period of the day. Watch the video below for a brief and inspiring synopsis of how Instructional Coach Jessica Parker and the Coker-Wimberly Elementary design team are thinking about the benefits of an Opportunity Culture.

ECPS's partnership with Public Impact is funded by generous grants from the Belk Foundation, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and the NC Department of Public Instruction. The higher pay for the new teacher roles will be funded within existing ECPS budgets. For more information about how schools throughout the country are developing an Opportunity Culture within the public school budget, check out this video.

Click "Follow" and subscribe to Doing School Better for updates on the progress of our work to build an Opportunity Culture in ECPS, and for information about how to reach more students and make more money as a teacher leader in an Opportunity Culture!

Giving Students a Voice: Project-Based Learning at Edgecombe Early College High School

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Edgecombe Early College freshman Morgan McNamara is learning that her voice matters. In the fall of 2016, says McNamara, "all of the freshmen and sophomores got together and brainstormed topics and social issues that mattered to us. We formed up working groups and chose a topic, then created a survey that we administered to 500 high school students from across the county. Using the data we received from the survey, other research we completed, and collaboration in our groups, we created a platform of change we would like important government officials, mostly at the local level, to see and discuss. The platform identified what we believe about the social issues and also what action steps we would like to see officials take. Since we couldn't vote in the elections, this project kept us involved and gave us a voice."

Morgan and her 9th and 10th grade peers, like sophomore Khandyce Wilkins (pictured above), engage in two semester-length project-based learning experiences each year at Edgecombe Early College High School. The fall semester project involves the design process -- in 2015, it was an environmental challenge about how to turn the Early College into a "green school." In 2016, it was "Youth Voices Matter." The spring semester project has a global theme.

In their junior year, EECHS scholars engage in workforce internship that is modeled after the senior graduation project and requires a paper, portfolio, product, and presentation. In their senior year, scholars tackle the graduation project during fall semester; in the spring semester, they collaborate with underclassmen on their global projects. Principal Matt Smith notes that, "the goal of our project-based learning work has been to align the student experience in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 so that it scaffolds from year to year and that student outcomes improve in the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity." Smith and his team are committed to not only sending 100% of their students to college, but also to ensuring they have the skills necessary to graduate from college, succeed in the career of their choice, and make thoughtful contributions to society.

On Our Minds

  • The North side "Innovation Zone": As noted above, the three schools on the North side of Edgecombe County make up our new "Innovation Zone." Drawing inspiration from innovation zones in other districts across the country, such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Project L.I.F.T. and the IZone in Memphis, TN, the goal is to collaborate closely with families and community members on the North side to transform these schools into next-generation learning environments.
  • Literacy and the iGeneration: Schools throughout the district are doubling down to promote reading and writing to the digital natives in our classrooms. From the "Early College Reads" program at Edgecombe Early College, to the school-wide research process in development at West Edgecombe MS, to the WordGen Weekly units at South Edgecombe MS, schools are trying out new and creative ways to get students excited about reading and writing - screen or no screen.

Consider This

In a December 2016 report, the Obama Administration calls for a continued need for schools to Rethink Discipline by creating safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environments and decreasing suspensions and expulsions. Read here about how one high school in NY is using restorative practices to decrease suspensions. Interested in how ECPS schools are creating more restorative and accountable school cultures? Talk with the Martin Millennium Academy, Pattillo Middle School, and North Edgecombe High School teams!

About Us

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 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!