State team set to begin work with schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

A state assistance team will arrive in Salisbury Tuesday to begin helping Rowan-Salisbury School System officials improve student performance.

The school system entered “corrective action” this year after failing the past four years to meet targets under the federal No Child Left Behind accountability law.

The team, led by retired Mecklenburg middle school Principal Doris Wilson, will try to help the system improve student test scores.

If the local students’ scores don’t improve this year, the system faces harsher sanctions.

The State Board of Education assigned the assistance team to the Rowan-Salisbury system. The team will meet first with Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom to work out visit details, according to Rita Foil, Rowan-Salisbury public information officer.

A schedule from the Department of Public Instruction indicates the team will also meet with a local team from the school system and with principals of Title I schools in corrective action during their first week.

Title I schools receive federal funds because they have a higher percentage of students receiving free or discounted school lunches.

The state team will then work with the Rowan-Salisbury team to complete a “needs assessment,” a “curriculum audit survey” and an assistance plan, the schedule said.

According to an introductory letter from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to the Rowan-Salisbury School System, districts entering corrective action under the No Child Left Behind federal program have met two specific criteria:

* Districts have missing student testing targets for four years.

* Districts have Title I schools in or entering corrective action.

The State Board of Education already has applied one sanction to all districts entering corrective action. Rowan-Salisbury has been directed to “align instruction with and fully implement the North Carolina Course of Study, including providing appropriate professional development.”

According to an e-mail to Grissom from Associate State Superintendent Elsie Leak, “Giving careful attention to this sanction will help to strengthen the foundation for improving student academic performance.”

The curriculum audit the team will be using was sent to Grissom through e-mail.

The audit challenges the local team and the state team to examine together many different standards including:

* Control of resources, programs and personnel.

* Clear and valid objectives.

* Documentation explaining how programs have been developed, implemented and conducted.

* The school district uses the results from district-designed and/or adopted instruments to adjust, improve or end ineffective practices or programs.

* The school district has improved productivity.

After initial visits, the state team will visit the system about two times each week, Foil said.

The letter from the Department of Public Instruction says the state assistance program “is not about the schools. It is about the fact that districts have not successfully intervened on behalf of their struggling schools.”

Team members will collaborate with the local team to provide interventions where necessary, the letter says.

“It is important that the district provides the financial, human and material resources to support the identified instructional needs. Further, there must be a system of monitoring to determine if state strategies are being implemented and after a reasonable time period that they are yielding positive results,” the letter said.

The assistance program is a partnership between the local system and the state. Rowan-Salisbury central office staff members are expected to accompany and assist with all of the major tasks and activities the state team members undertake, according to the letter.

To make sure this is a collaborative effort, the two teams will work out a schedule of meetings and an assistance plan to guide all work.

For each strategy in the assistance plan, a local and state team member will be assigned to monitor its use and the results.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.

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