Morgan Elementary, China Grove Middle outline renewal plans

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY – Morgan Elementary School Principal Derek DiStefano says the school provides students with a personalized learning opportunity to allow them to grow into independent, lifelong, self motivated learners.

DiStefano said, like most schools, Morgan began to analyze its instruction as part of the renewal status and found the teachers were doing well in the classroom.

“But the deeper we dug, the more we began to see, ‘was it all students'” DiStefano asked.

DiStefano attended a Competency-Based Education Summit in Colorado and learned how the school could personalize instruction to meet the needs of each student. He came back, met with his team and took them to another training to about competency-based education. Time in competency-based education becomes the variable in a student’s education. That’s compared to a traditional setting where time is constant and content becomes the variable.

A focus on competency-based education was part of DiStefano’s presentation to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education Monday about Morgan Elementary’s new renewal plan as part of the district-wide “charter-like” freedoms granted by the state. Morgan Elementary and China Grove Middle School were the latest to present to the board, though a number of schools already had their plans in place. Others are still in line, either crafting their plans or awaiting approval from the board.

The district has a system that focuses on academic skills, interpersonal skills and unique life goals.

Board member Susan Cox commended Morgan on the integration of competency-based education.

China Grove, meanwhile, is carving out 40 minutes of each Monday for students to visit teachers a grade level ahead and focus on one interpersonal skill each month.

“What we’ve discovered is students have started to see that work truly in isolation when teachers bring up the word civility in a social studies class,” said China Grove Principal Amanda Macon.

Students integrate those skills in the classroom through connected reading passages, discussions and activities.

China Grove is also showing kids more subjects through mini courses, which were created by each teacher and last a half quarter. As a result, students spent time crossing grade levels and meeting new teachers while tackling new subjects like nonprofits, college athletics and small engine repairs. Students each create projects by the end of the course.

Students will be surveyed at the end of the third quarter so the school can match students with the mini courses that appeal to them most. Part of Macon’s presentation was also about competency-based education.

“I love the idea of being able to take every kid right where they are and grow them, because it’s all about growth” Macon said. “We’ll get to proficiency if we continually grow every child from where they are to where they need to be in increments.”

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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