Sampson County Schools recently won the Outstanding Middle School Program award from the North Carolina State Board Association (NCSBA).
“We’re so proud to receive this award. We’ve done a lot of good things for the kids as a result of this project. It’s been so successful for us,” said Becky Jackson Lockamy, director of Middle School Education for Sampson County Schools.
The “Middle School Project,” which Lockamy noted “came from the top down. It was our superintendent’s [Dr. Ethan Lenker’s] initiative,” began in 2008 and has been continuously implemented in three phases over the course of the past five years.
“We started the project with a consultant from ECU,” explained Lockamy. “He still assists us some but now we can pretty much handle it on our own because once you learn how to collect the data, analyze it, and implement it, you know how to do it. That’s one thing that is great about this project; it requires little to no funding because most the work is done internally.”
Phase one of the project focuses on school analysis which includes collecting data and conducting surveys and interviews.
According to information provided by Sampson County Schools, the data is used to “develop a comprehensive description of the state of the middle school.”
Instructional coaches are vital to this task, stressed Lockamy. “If it weren’t for them, I don’t know that we’d have the time and energy to collect all this valuable information. They’re a great help to our teachers and a vital part of the curriculum. They don’t get enough credit for the work they do.”
From the data analysis, several recommendations are made. Past ones have included increasing teacher collaboration and training all school staff in the characteristics of middle schools and middle school-aged children.
Phase two ushered in the Comprehensive Analytical Data Directed Approach (CADDA), a unique review of the collected data that is both quantitative and qualitative.
“Before this project, we looked solely at academics. Now, we also look at the behavioral and social issues that can adversely affect a student’s grades,” explained Lockamy. “Because of this new perspective, our guidance counselors are very involved in helping the kids. Most of the time, it turns out that it’s a social issue, not an academic one.”
Sampson County schools use the data review to specifically identify at-rick students, especially in the areas of reading and math.
Based on what they learn, school principals and teachers meet monthly to discuss the at-risk students and take the necessary actions in order to help those students improve academically.
Phase three centers on improving the quality of teaching in Sampson County schools.
Beginning in 2010, teachers were videotaped while they taught their classes. The tapes were later reviewed by the teachers and others including administrators and curriculum directors.
This on-the-job professional development activity has allowed teachers the opportunity to reflect on their classroom procedures, instructional practices, and student engagement, to name a few.
“At first, most of the teachers were apprehensive about the videotaping. It’s hard to watch yourself and reflect on what you did good or possibly what you did that wasn’t so good,” said Lockamy. “However, the teachers have now embraced it. We’ve actually got teachers who, when trying new practices or approaches, want to be videotaped so that they can review it and see how well it worked.”
The tapes are also used to help other teachers. “Because we’re such a spread out county, it’s hard for our teachers in all our different schools to really collaborate,” shared Lockamy. “Now with these tapes, they can be sent to different schools and everyone can view them. They really help us spread the best teaching practices.”
The success of the project has also spread beyond the middle schools. “Because it’s been so successful for us, we’ve now expanded the project to all grades,” noted Lockamy.
In addition to the project winning the NCSBA’s award, it has also been presented at two National Middle School Association conferences, the National School Boards Association conference, and the High Schools That Work national conference.
For more information about Sampson County Schools, visit www.sampson.k12.nc.us.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 123 or via email at email@example.com.