Creating more time for teachers to plan instruction. Providing more mentoring and other support for potential school leaders. Updating plans for the use of digital learning tools.
Each of those is one of the improvements proposed for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools following the district’s recent designation as “low performing” on the state’s annual report cards.
ECPPS is required to submit a districtwide “improvement plan” to state officials because of the low-performing designation. The plan will be submitted to the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education for its approval Monday night.
The draft plan has been posted on the ECPPS website, and staff, students and members of the community have been invited to provide feedback. The deadline to submit comments is Sunday. Visit the site at https://www.ecpps.k12.nc.us/ and scroll down to News & Events.
Individual schools will submit school improvement plans to the local board of education on Oct. 24.
ECPPS Superintendent Keith Parker said Wednesday that he and the school board want feedback from teachers and the community. He said he already has gotten good feedback and looks forward to more.
“I want to hear from teachers and the community before finalizing what is in (the plan),” Parker said. “I appreciate their feedback because I have already been reading through some very valuable suggestions. People have been giving very good feedback to us. We’re going to take the feedback and make different revisions based on the feedback.”
Parker told the Pasquotank Economic Development Commission Wednesday that he and district staff had pulled 14- and 15-hour days over the past two weeks to get the draft improvement plan ready for posting to the school district’s website.
“I told someone the other day I am already tired of being called a ‘low performing’ district because I don’t think there is anything low performing about our kids,” Parker told the EDC. “We are going to do everything we can to exit that status. We are not going to remain identified as something that I don’t believe we are.”
The draft plan focuses largely on making sure that the district’s resources, programs and interventions are completely aligned with the state standards. The local tests and assessments also need to be aligned to the state standards, Parker said.
“We’re also focused on using data to make decisions,” Parker said. “That’s the importance of assessing students early. We need to assess our students early in the year so that if we need to jump in and provide intervention we know that we can do that early in the year.”
Action items in the draft plan include:
• Having school and district leaders create a professional development goal focused on data-driven instruction.
• Ensuring monthly principal meetings include professional development focused on data-driven instruction.
• Having “teacher-leaders” from each school, along with district instructional leaders, come together to review, update, and make necessary changes to district-pacing guides and curriculum maps.
Some of the steps are related to instructional technology that is used in the classroom. For example:
• The district will hire an instructional technology facilitator to assist with the creation and implementation of a professional development plan based on the NCDPI Digital Learning Progress rubric assessment.
• ECPPS will fill all school library media coordinator positions and create flexible schedules for each.
• The district will create a district-approval process for all technology equipment and digital resources that involves school administrators, the director of technology, the federal programs director, and finance director.
The plan also calls for a collaborative process to develop a five-year strategic plan for the district.
In order to present a unified vision of school improvement, ECPPS officials will conduct “state of the district” meetings and tours throughout each school board member’s district.
Another strategy is to “review student and staff handbooks and identify policies and procedures that would benefit from revision.” Special attention will be given to “revision practices that would reduce the number of students dropping out of school.”
In order to identify and strengthen potential school leaders, ECPPS will “develop an emerging leaders program for current employees who are interested in advanced classroom and school leadership roles.”
Parker said the emerging leaders program “is something that I am very excited about.”
Much of the discussion about school improvement in recent years has centered around recruiting and retraining highly qualified teachers. To that end, the improvement plan calls for conditional contracts for “high-need” positions and signing bonuses for those positions when funds are available.
The draft plan also states: “All efforts will be made to allow teachers time to analyze student data and develop instructional improvement plans.”
In his remarks to the EDC, Parker also addressed transportation and enrollment.
“I’m excited to say we have hired multiple new drivers,” Parker said. “We have added new drivers and we have added new routes. We have several of our schools where we have every kid signed up to ride on a bus, on a bus. A majority of our kids are getting to school on time in the morning. We are making a lot of progress on that right now but we still have a ways to go on bus drivers.”
ECPPS enrollment is up this year by 350 students, and those numbers continue to go up.
“We had some students just enroll (Tuesday) in kindergarten,” Parker said.