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QTL News & Stories


Focus on Improvement Pays off for NC School
Summer 2007

'Focused intervention' is a daunting term. But hard work by teachers, leadership from administrators, and professional development focused on data-driven planning turned the process into a success at Union Chapel Elementary.

ROBESON COUNTY, NC - A Robeson County elementary school is seeing dramatic improvements in student achievement after a year of 'focused intervention' aimed at improving student achievement.

A combination of professional development for teachers and district leadership coaching for administrators during the 2006-07 school year helped turn the tide. Dedication and hard work among both groups made a tremendous difference for students.

Official end-of-year results released by Public Schools of Robeson County show Union Chapel Elementary made 13 of its 13 targets and made AYP for the year. School officials released specific data for the tested students, seen in the chart below.

Union Chapel Math Scores

math scores

Math 2005-06 2006-07
Grade 3 64 71
Grade 4 58 86.6
Grade 5 42 58.3
Grade 6 37 69.9


Union Chapel Reading Scores

reading scores

Reading 2005-06 2006-07
Grade 3 71 86
Grade 4 70 87.5
Grade 5 74 85.5
Grade 6 62 79


QTL Senior Instructional Specialist Pam Edwards, who led much of the professional and leadership development at Union Chapel, says hard work was apparent at the school.

"This school takes change seriously," she says. "Teachers quickly embraced collaboration and spent a great deal of time looking at their student data. Teams of teachers worked together to develop more effective lessons designed around the strategies they learned in QTL and aligned with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. Their hard work really paid off, especially for the students."

Union Chapel Elementary School enrolls about 550 students in grades pre-K-6. It is located in Pembroke inside the Public Schools of Robeson County, a North Carolina district with 44,000 students. It is a rural school with a student population that is 76.5% Native American, 14.3% Hispanic, 6.5% Black and 2.7% Caucasian students. About 85% of its students receive free and/or reduced lunch.

In the 2003-04 school year, 52% of Union Chapel's third graders passed the end-of-grade math test. Over the next two years, scores rose to the point that 64% of third graders were passing the math exam, but that still didn't meet AYP standards.

Last year, county school administrators identified Union Chapel as one of six district schools in need of focused intervention. The schools targeted were not making AYP and not expected to make targets for the coming year. Math was a particularly troublesome area for all the schools. with passing percentages from the mid 30s to mid 60s.

In the summer of 2006, Robeson County administrators asked the Centers for Quality Teaching to partner with them in serving identified focus schools.

QTL began by leading the faculty at the six schools through the QTL program, modeling research-based instructional strategies and allowing teachers to experience and reflect upon using these strategies in their classrooms.

At the same time, district and school administrators began the QTL Instructional Leadership Program, focusing on what it takes to be an instructional leader in a school and district and how to support research-based instructional strategies in the classroom.

Another area of concern for Robeson County was its growing number of lateral entry teachers coming from other professions with no teaching background or experience. Those teachers were enrolled in QTL's New Teacher Induction Program, a year-long program designed to provide an understanding of pedagogy, curriculum standards, and the business of schools. As a part of the Academy, these new teachers received ongoing mentoring and support throughout their first year of teaching.

"Many times, these are the teachers who have valuable professional experiences in business and industry, but little or no experience working with students in a public school. They need specific help managing their classrooms, their instruction, and their new careers," says Janice Johnson, Vice President of Programs for The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning. "That is what our program is designed to do."

The 2006-07 state test scores at Union Chapel Elementary exceed the average for the district's other 42 schools. The school developed a shared teacher leadership process through Professional Learning Communities during the last school year. This is a process supported by the National Staff Development Council and a direction in which many schools are moving.

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