by Renarta Clanton Moyd,
This spring, the Cumberland County School (CCS) system proudly graduated 3,602 students who amassed nearly $63 million in scholarships. These young people crossed the stage to receive their diplomas and literally stepped into lives that will lead them to institutions of higher learning, into the military, or into the workforce.
Admittedly impressive, the CCS’ quest to help all students become ‘their best selves,’ does not end with the Class of 2017. The quest not only continues, but also strengthens as educators throughout the district enter the new school year excited about preparing students to compete at a global level.
Multiple sources of data continue to drive efforts in the classroom ensuring that equalized educational opportunities are helping every child meet growth. Implementing multiple levels of student support, closing the equity gap, and embracing digital teaching and learning will be woven into the school system’s tapestry of educational culture.
Student Achievement Quest
To prepare students for an ever-changing world, CCS’ teachers will continue their focus on academic rigor. Rigorous lessons challenged our learners by tapping into their critical-thinking skills and cultivating independent thinkers. Part of that effort will be enhanced as the CCS embraces the North Carolina Multi-Tiered System of Support or “MTSS,” which by definition is a tiered framework that promotes school improvement through engaging, research-based academic, and behavioral practices. The state-mandated initiative will mean all students will be provided the instruction they need to make progress toward standards.
Parents will play a major role in MTSS because they know their child’s strengths and interests as well as any interventions that were or were not successful for their child in the past. The initiative will encourage teachers and parents to work together to problem solve using data in order to best meet the needs of their child. This year, nine schools in Cumberland County will implement MTSS. Full implementation of the initiative is scheduled to occur in every school district in North Carolina by 2020.
Last school year, equity, which measures achievement, fairness, and opportunity in education, was an important part of our goals. We were increasingly aware of the equity gap and the need to ensure equity in educational experiences for all students. This awareness prompted us to do what we could to help close the gap. Professional development was the best place to start. School administrators and a Student Services’ employee from each school attended monthly cultural proficiency and equity training sessions, which were developed by CCS’ Equity Team based on the cultural proficiency program by Gary Howard, founder of the REACH Center for Multicultural Education.
Information from the sessions was taken back to schools and shared with faculty and staff. This first phase of the training was geared toward developing “Tone and Trust” with the idea that staff would work on building relationships amongst themselves and with their students for the purpose of appreciating differences, while recognizing similarities. This school year, the Equity Team will continue leading training sessions that enhance “Tone and Trust” and create culturally competent and responsive school environments.
Digital Learning & Teaching Quest
The CCS has long realized that for our students to compete in this ever-changing world, their digital learning experiences must be meaningful and relevant. ‘One-size-fits-all instruction’ with its instructional resources are ‘dinosaurs’ in this digital age. Two years ago, our teachers and staff began using various digital tools, e.g., laptops, Chrome Books, and iPads, in the classroom to enhance teaching and individualized learning. Recently, through a partnership with the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan has begun helping schools in Cumberland County and across the state take a different approach to how they drive student learning through the use of technology and innovation. Personalized learning, mastery of the content and competency, assessment integrated into learning activities, and student-centered instruction are some of the hallmarks of the state-mandated plan. Digital resources are taking our classrooms by storm where textbooks of days past are obsolete. This year, all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders will be issued a digital textbook and access to other devices during the school day. Also, through a grant awarded to the CCS titled the Sprint 1Million Project, local high school students who do not have Internet access at home will receive wireless connectivity. Over the course of five years, this grant will provide 6,000 hot spots for students’ at-home use.
Determined to continue our journey toward growth for ALL students, our efforts will be strengthened by focusing on developing multiple levels of student support, effective equity training, and personalized digital learning opportunities. We realize that during the 2017 to 2018 school year and beyond, work remains. Nonetheless, we are committed to empowering the children of Cumberland County with what it takes to succeed on their journey.
Renarta Clanton Moyd, CCS’ Chief Communications Officer, wrote this piece with contributing information from Dr. Jane Fields, Executive Director of Secondary Education; Kristen Curran, Counselors Coordinator; Jody Hawley, Executive Director of Information Technology and Media Services; and Kevin Coleman, Executive Director of Technology.