Board Retreat Part 2 - What is Missing From Our Curriculum & Instruction Department?

PART II

The next part of the day involved looking at how our students are doing academically and what things Cabarrus County schools are doing to improve the outcomes for all students. We have a lot of great things going on including: STEM pipeline, another i3 grant award, two Global Ready schools, IB expansion, SPLASH expansion, NAF High School academies, and a new Early College.

We do however have significant challenges: our performance test scores and student growth are not where we want them to be in all areas, we have funding challenges especially where it relates to instructional materials. The example given is that the system only has been able to fund about $50 per child for all instructional resources, assessment tools, and textbooks for our students. That is not a lot of money.

We also have had a lot of new people in leadership positions in our Curriculum and Instruction department so it was a worthwhile time hearing new perspectives and discussing the direction the department is heading under new director Dr. Crystal Hill (who happened to be celebrating her birthday with us Saturday as well)

I like what Dr. Hill said when she opened her discussion, she said the department’s title was missing an important word that they focus on besides curriculum and instruction, that word was “learning” as that is what kiddos are here for.” She also said she is a big believer of the “good to great” message.

We have a reputation for being good. Many other school systems are looking at Cabarrus county and what we are doing. She wants to move us to great. We need to change the common mindset. We can go beyond what we and most people think is doable.

We can do this by looking at the data, then aligning what we are doing as a system, leveraging our staff, maximizing supports, and partnering with families.

She said she set has set SMART goals of seeing proficiency scores for students go up 5% and then she had each of her level directors (high school, middle school, and elementary school) present where we are and strategies on how we were going to reach our goals. She was hopeful the board would concur and support this direction. One example she used was the importance of having the right assessment tools to gauge where students are individually, one that is aligned to the standards.

Mr. Ben Allred, our High School Director does a great job telling stories and making analogies. He went over growth and proficiency scores for last three years. He also reviewed advanced placement exam participation and rankings as well as ACT test scores and graduation rates. He said High Schools will be focusing on three things to go from “Good to Great”:

(1) Professional Learning Communities or PLC (Groups of subject matter teachers getting together regularly)

(2) Professional Development for teachers and

(3) Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) which aligns resources and provides each student the right level of instruction and other interventions to succeed.

I appreciated his comparisons of a PLC to a doctor visiting with specialists discussing unique medical case, Professional Development compared to an auto mechanic critical training on all these computers in the vehicles now a days, and a very memorable MTSS comparison to a wedding dance. What we are doing is important as it affects students in the long-term in both income and health.

Dr. Mary Beth Roth also reviewed student proficiency and growth scores and discussed the Middle School Literacy Plan and Middle School Math Plan to go from “Good to Great”. She spoke about the differences in education for 10 years ago and the impact technology has had for teachers and students. Teachers are learning how to analyze the data to better help their students. She spoke about expanding Targeted professional literacy development which is currently done in PLCs in three schools. She also spoke about implementing interventions in small groups like working on vocabulary.

I liked her quote from James Collins “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline”

Ms. Angel Oliphant our new Elementary Director, reviewed SMART goals in Reading and Math for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. She also discussed past 3 years of reading, math, and science proficiency and growth scores. She reviewed the Elementary Literacy plan and the additional part of having administrators at the school level participate in grade level professional learning community (PLC) meetings. I liked her comment that we need to believe that “All Kids” can be on grade level, she does, but not everyone believes that and we need to work to change that mindset to go from “Good to Great”

After the presentations from the Elementary, Middle, and High Curriculum directors, there was a break where board members could walk around the room and see what was going on with other programs and parts of the Curriculum Department that included Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG), Exceptional Children (EC) / Special Education, English as Second Language (ESL), Career Technical Education (CTE), Blended Learning / Use of Technology, and Science Technology Engineering Math (Inspire STEM Grant). I really admire and appreciated the complex work that is done by our CCS staff to engage and assist so many different types of student learners.

Before this part of the day was over, the Board had a chance to individually ask questions and engage in discussions with Curriculum department staff on everything that was presented and goals that were set. I appreciated having this a large part of our day to really understand and focus on all that is being done to “Engage Minds and Shape Futures” which will be our new taglineline promoting our Strategic Plan going forward.

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