TOP 10 STORIES OF 2-17: No. 7

ECPPS imposes reform plans for 4 schools


Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Superintendent Larry Cartner discusses the school district's plans to implement reform plans at four low-performing schools during a press conference, Tuesday, March 7.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, December 25, 2017

Editor’s note: Our review of the top stories of 2017 continues.

In an effort to stave off a state takeover of four low-performing schools, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools officials adopted a reform plan that started July 1 to improve student achievement at the schools. 

Pasquotank Elementary School and River Road Middle School are implementing the state’s “restart” reform model while P.W. Moore Elementary School and Elizabeth City Middle School are following the “transformation” model.  

At a press conference in March, ECPPS Superintendent Larry Cartner explained that absent improvement, low-performing schools are at risk of being placed in what’s known as an Achievement School District. Because the achievement district is state operated, local school officials would lose control of any school assigned to it.

Although the restart and transformation models both involve greater flexibility for school administrators, the restart model allows slightly more flexibility in budgeting, scheduling and staffing, and also includes a recommendation that a new principal be put in place. State education officials recommend the restart model for schools where the principal has been in place for several years without a marked improvement in student achievement.

Based on that state recommendation, ECCPS chose the transformation model for P.W. Moore and ECMS because P.W. Moore’s principal was in her first year at the school and ECMS' principal was in his second year.

New principals were brought in at the other two schools — Adrian Fonville at River Road Middle and Antoinette Reid at Pasquotank Elementary.

A handout distributed at a March community meeting on the reform plans stated the four schools could remain in their current reform model as long as student achievement was improving. If the school isn’t making progress, it is moved to the next reform model level, which at Pasquotank Elementary and River Road Middle would be the the “turnaround” model that involves replacing the school’s principal and at least half of its teachers.

As the school district began getting the word out about the reform models, the leader of the Pasquotank County NAACP claimed school officials had been too slow to seek public input on how the reforms would be implemented.

“We need to be at the table from the beginning, not in the end," Keith Rivers said at a community meeting on the reform plans in March. "We should have had this meeting six months ago."

The four schools targeted for reform have consistently received D grades on the state’s grading scale. But on the most recent report, P.W. Moore Elementary received an F grade, the first school in the Albemarle to receive that score on the state’s current grading system.

Rivers also has pressed the school district to look closely at socioeconomic data in determining student school assignments. A more balanced demographic at the schools is one piece that’s needed in improving student achievement, Rivers said.

The reform plans were approved by state officials at the May meeting of the State Board of Education.

Nancy Barbour, who heads the school reform section at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said at the time that the state planned to monitor the situation in all districts with low-performing schools to ensure school officials aren’t just putting something down on paper — but are actually implementing a reform plan.

“The intent is not to let a school continue to spiral down,” Barbour said. If state officials see that a school is not making progress they will will suggest either tweaking the plan or possibly switching to a different model.

Barbour said that while the state looks for improvement in test scores there are also other signs of improvement that sometimes appear first, such as a reduction in teacher turnover, improvement of the community's perception of a school and greater parent and community involvement.

Such “anecdotal” indicators of improvement often precede noticeable improvement in the test scores, she said.