Pinnacle Elementary School is located in northwestern Rutherford County and serves students from Lake Lure, Gilkey, Green Hill, Chimney Rock, and Union Mills. A Title I school serving 214 kindergarten through fifth grade students and 18 preschool students, Pinnacle Elementary School is a rural school located in a country setting. As with many rural communities, high unemployment rates and a lack of transportation have motivated people to move into the city or different counties to find employment. The United States Department of Labor data records an unemployment rate of 6.4% in Rutherford County, which is higher than the state average of 4.4%, and also higher than the national average of 5.2%. As unemployment in the area continues to exceed state and local measures, Pinnacle Elementary School has seen a decrease in student enrollment and an increase in transient students due to many families who continue to seek available job opportunities elsewhere. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on student enrollment as some families choose to homeschool their children while the pandemic persists.
Pinnacle Elementary School is very fortunate to operate in a beautiful facility in the Gilkey Community. It was built in 1999, and consists of 70,000 square feet. The building contains 28 fully furnished classrooms, a media center (with a collection of 10,000 books and an iPad cart), a new STEM lab, music room, art room, gymnasium and cafeteria. Pinnacle Elementary School has a K-5 book room containing extensive collections of leveled readers, math and reading manipulatives, games, as well as a family resource room.
Pinnacle Elementary School is a “late school” in the Rutherford County Schools (RCS) district with the instructional day beginning at 8:15 a.m. and ending at 3:15 p.m. Pinnacle Elementary School teachers begin their day at 7:45 a.m. each day in order to assist students with homework, provide extra practice, and offer more reading support. Pinnacle Elementary School teachers, students, and families value this additional thirty minutes as a vital resource to provide student support.
The staff at Pinnacle Elementary School is comprised of 19 highly qualified teachers, 1 school counselor, 1 Speech Language Pathologist, 9 teacher assistants and other staff support members. Of the highly qualified teachers, 4 teachers are National Board Certified, 5 have advanced degrees, 4 teachers have less than 5 years experience and 15 teachers have 5 or more years of experience. The average class size is 17 students. According to the 2020 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey, 95% of the teachers feel that Pinnacle Elementary School is a good place to work. This percentage is higher than both the county average of 86% and the state average of 86%.
Core literacy instruction is delivered using the RCS purchased Benchmark Advance curriculum and Pinnacle Elementary School teachers ensure that instruction aligns to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and the state recommended Comprehensive Reading Plan. Mathematics instruction is delivered using the Eureka Math curriculum, which focuses on building number sense, a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts, and connections across the strands of mathematics. Research-based programs and strategies are utilized daily to deliver direct and targeted instruction within core and also small groups of students. Assessment data is collected and analyzed regularly in order to identify weaknesses and provide instruction that meets the needs of all students through their Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) program.
Pinnacle Elementary School, along with all schools within Rutherford County Schools, continues to be involved in the 1:1 Going G.L.O.B.A.L. initiative. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade have iPad devices. The 1:1 initiative increases the learning potential of students because it puts learning resources and materials in the hands of students, teachers, parents, and the community. Therefore, a bridge is built to foster a positive and up-to-date learning environment for the entire community. Their 1:1 program has also been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic in providing the necessary resources for students to learn in both remote and on-campus environments.
Like many schools, Pinnacle Elementary School has experienced very impactful data changes as a result of the pandemic’s effect on instructional consistency and time. Previously one of the top performing schools in Rutherford County, Pinnacle Elementary School is now striving to focus on targeting extreme learning losses to fill achievement gaps, meet state growth standards and once again achieve high marks from North Carolina’s school performance grading system. Pinnacle Elementary School attributes past successful performance results to common grade level planning, persistent analysis of instruction and standards, individualized instruction through MTSS, effective use of research-based practices, integrated use of technology, ongoing professional development for educators, and strong community support. Pinnacle Elementary School will continue these practices, while instituting new practices outlined in this planning document, to target learning losses and maximize student learning and growth as they move forward.
Pinnacle Elementary School strives to foster parent and community involvement. Their Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is one of their greatest assets. Pinnacle Elementary School’s PTO continually raises funds to help bring vital resources into the classroom and also provides vital stakeholders who regularly provide feedback concerning educational and operational practices within the school. Parent and community volunteers in the classroom help promote student enrichment by providing extra assistance during a variety of special school activities. These stakeholders are also vital in teaching students skills and information that help students better understand their community and the world that surrounds them. Pinnacle Elementary School’s administrator, teachers, and leadership teams highly value PTO feedback and parent survey response feedback. In addition, Pinnacle Elementary School holds regular meetings with the Local Advisory Council (LAC), composed of parents and community members, in order to ensure vital stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. Pinnacle Elementary School hosts an annual Title 1 meeting, along with many parent and family engagement events, in order to support families and students, build a sense of community, and also offer a chance to provide feedback for Pinnacle Elementary School staff via discussion and surveys. Pre-K has monthly family events to further foster their belief that, with the involvement of parents and community, they can achieve more.
No matter the circumstances, Pinnacle Elementary School continually seeks new ways to reach every student. Their top priority is to help their students be successful despite any obstacles or barriers that may hinder their learning. According to the 2020 Rutherford County Schools Remote Learning Parent Survey, 86.4% of Pinnacle Elementary School families indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that Pinnacle Elementary School teachers provided frequent support and feedback for students during remote learning. Furthermore, 90.4% of Pinnacle Elementary School families who participated in the survey indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that their child’s teacher provided help whenever needed during remote learning. According to the most recent Title 1 parent survey, 86.6% of parents feel that the teachers at Pinnacle Elementary School have high expectations for students. Pinnacle Elementary School regularly plans parent and family engagement activities and has retained strong parent support over the years. This has resulted in an average of 87% of parents responding to the Title I survey indicating they feel welcome in the school. Parents are interested in learning about their children’s daily activities at school and have many resources to connect with the school and staff members, including social media pages on ClassDojo and Facebook. On average, 90% of parents who responded to the Title I survey feel communication with faculty is answered in a timely manner. All of these factors contributed to an average of 89.9% of parents responding to the Title I survey indicating that they are happy with Pinnacle Elementary School as their child’s school.
Pinnacle Elementary School’s student population consists of approximately 85.9% White, 2.6% Black, 7% Hispanic, and 4.0% Multi-Racial students. All students receive free meals due to the school district’s participation in federal initiatives associated with the National School Lunch Program. Providing free meals ensures all students will have access to nutritious breakfast and lunch every school day. In Rutherford County Schools, 16% of students are currently identified as Exceptional Children. Pinnacle Elementary School’s current student population identifies comparatively with the county average as 16.6% of RCS students are identified as Exceptional Children. 5% of students are identified as Academically and Intellectually Gifted, while less than 1% receive English as a Second Language services.
In the 2018-2019 school year, Pinnacle Elementary School met growth with a Composite Growth Score of 0.84 and met 100% of participation targets. Their College Ready Composite (level 4 and 5 EOG scores) was 55.7% and Grade Level Proficient composite (level 3, 4 and 5 EOG scores) was 73.3%. In the spring of 2019, the percentage of students passing the reading EOG was 68%, 7.6% above the district average. Despite new EOG tests given statewide for Mathematics in the spring of 2019, Pinnacle Elementary School achieved a Math EOG proficiency of 73%. That same year, the Science EOG percentage of students passing was 86.5%. Pinnacle Elementary School’s overall School Performance Grade remained a B, and the 2018-2019 score of 76.0% was the second highest recorded score since 2014.
While Pinnacle Elementary School staff have always dedicated themselves to helping students grow and achieve, the school closures in March of the 2019-2020 school year and remote learning with the mixture of a hybrid schedule in the 2020-2021 school year significantly impacted the consistency of daily face-to-face instruction for students. According to the Rutherford County Schools Remote Learning Parent Survey, 60 of 125 participating parents responded “no” when asked “Do you have high-speed internet in your home for students to access the internet?”. Therefore, 48% of the Pinnacle Elementary School survey participants indicated that reliable high-speed internet was not readily available at home for remote instructional activities such as participating in live Zoom conferences or viewing teacher made tutorial videos posted online to the Canvas learning management system. Many families had to travel to alternate locations in order to participate in such remote learning activities or download materials for off-line participation in class activities. Some of the same families were also limited in transportation options for this travel, further restricting student access to internet based resources. Though teachers offered consistent Zoom lessons, instructional videos, and regular communication via phone, ClassDojo and/or Canvas, a significant number of families struggled to access the content of remote lessons. Even cell service to participate in phone calls could be difficult to find in their vast and rural community.
Despite the obstacles mentioned above, Pinnacle Elementary School actively worked to find solutions to student participation issues during hybrid and remote learning. Many solutions were found using resources provided by their district, such as public internet in their bus parking lot or WiFi hotspot devices for families that lived within range of cell service. Teachers also helped families identify local WiFi availability sites, assisted families in finding help with specific technical issues, provided parents with tutorials in using remote learning tools and even provided printed packets when other remote learning options had been exhausted. Pinnacle Elementary School utilized their school counselor, teacher assistants and tutors to build a robust family support system, regularly calling or Zooming with students to offer virtual instructional as well as social/emotional support. Notwithstanding these efforts, teachers’ formative assessments, observations, and feedback during grade level discussions indicated a significantly negative impact to the normal progression of skill and concept mastery for Pinnacle Elementary School students as compared with school years prior to the pandemic. EOG data collected in the spring of 2021 provided further indication that student progress at Pinnacle Elementary School had fallen significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 2020-2021 school year, 38.4% of students were proficient on the reading end-of-grade assessment, 30.4% of students were proficient on the mathematics end-of-grade assessment, and 53.3% were proficient on the science end-of-grade assessment.
All Pinnacle Elementary School stakeholders are fully committed to improving academic achievement in each grade level for the 2021-2023 cycle. Increasing the proficiency percentage in all subjects at each grade level will be achieved by closely following the district adopted math curriculum from Eureka and teaching Benchmark Advance Curriculum with fidelity. Their teachers will also engage in professional development to ensure all literacy instruction aligns to the state-adopted body of research known as the Science of Reading. Pinnacle Elementary School will continue to use additional online programs that effectively support the district math curriculum, such as “Zearn” and “Happy Numbers”. Further efforts in providing academic, social-emotional, behavioral, and attendance supports through MTSS, as well as other targeted efforts outlined below in Section 4 will help us facilitate the success of their students as they work to recover the significant learning losses they have experienced.
In addition to academic support, Pinnacle Elementary School also works to provide for the social and physical needs of their students. The school counselor coordinates and oversees a mentoring program utilizing school personnel as well as community stakeholders and organizations. 7% of Pinnacle Elementary School’s students receive food backpacks every Friday afternoon in an effort to fulfill their nutritional needs over the weekends, and extra food is sent home for holiday weeks and weekends. Students are encouraged to fulfill a positive role in school and at home, and are supported in their efforts to become successful citizens in a 21st century community. The counselor and teachers at Pinnacle Elementary School utilize Second Step curriculum in order to deliver daily social-emotional learning activities. The Second Step program supports staff in the conscientious effort to promote mental health, social-emotional development, and well-being within students.
The entire school also uses ClassDojo, an online social media communication tool for the classroom. It connects teachers, parents, and students by sharing and accessing photos, videos, and messages throughout the school day. The ClassDojo application provides almost instantaneous feedback so students can better understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to improve social, academic and behavioral skills. Teachers use this program to assist students in their goals, and parents get an inside view of events going on in the classroom. Parents also use the application to have direct messaging communications with their child’s teachers as appropriate.
Finally, Pinnacle Elementary School offers many extracurricular activities to support their diverse population. Learning opportunities include a robotics program, the Elementary Book Challenge Team, the Academically and Intellectually Gifted program, Yearbook Staff, Junior Beta Club, Spelling Bee, and after school tutoring for students in all grade levels. Pinnacle Elementary School hopes to add a peer tutoring program during the 2021-2022 school year. Fifth grade students are instructed on the importance of respecting others and making wise choices through their participation in the Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program sponsored by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department. Their goal in offering these extracurricular programs is to provide opportunities for students that interest and engage them in the school and surrounding community.
Beliefs and Mission
VISION: Pinnacle Elementary School's vision is to develop globally competitive, self-sufficient and productive individuals that contribute to present and future society.
MISSION: Pinnacle Elementary School's mission is to teach their students to be high achievers and to love, respect and be kind to others, so that they may grow with peace of mind as productive members of society.
BELIEFS: *To provide a nurturing, multifaceted educational opportunity for all students. *To provide a safe and nurturing environment so all students can grow and learn. *To enrich the lives of all students.
The adoption of Pinnacle Elementary School’s core beliefs and principles came about through numerous discussions among the staff, involved community members and organizations, and families. Pinnacle Elementary School wanted a vision and mission statement that reflected their school and their community beliefs and principles. Their vision and mission statements were developed through faculty, community, and parent surveys as well as discussions during grade level meetings, School Improvement Team (SIT) meetings, Positive Behavior Support (PBIS) Team meetings, Multi-Tiered System of Support meetings (MTSS) and Local Advisory Council meetings (LAC).
Pinnacle Elementary School’s vision and mission statements are communicated through a variety of means such as their annual Title 1 parent meeting, parent handbook, school website, and school letterhead. The statements are also posted throughout the school. Their vision and mission statements provide direction for decisions made during School Improvement Team meetings, PTO meetings and Local Advisory Council meetings. Staff members communicate their mission and vision daily by using common language with students, parents, and other staff members. Pinnacle Elementary School understands the importance of regularly evaluating and assessing the school’s vision, mission and beliefs. All stakeholder feedback is analyzed to evaluate alignment of school programs to the school’s vision, mission and beliefs.
Desired Outcomes and Results
The school’s broad vision is for all students to demonstrate significant growth and attain grade level proficiency standards by the end of each academic school year. The broad vision aligns to local and state priorities in that a strong foundation is absolutely essential if they expect their students to be college and career ready upon exiting high school. Through careful analysis and discussion of numerous data sources during grade level stakeholder meetings, their teachers, administrators, and parents identified specifically what they want their students to know and be able to do to be successful at the beginning of each school year, as well as when students move on to the middle and high school level. Pinnacle Elementary School’s stakeholders all want their students to be able to read for understanding, think critically, problem solve effectively, collaborate on projects, and use research and technology skills. Their goal for students is to love learning, apply skills taught, and achieve success in a global world.
To address their beliefs and mission to develop students’ readiness for a path to college and career, Pinnacle Elementary School’s improvement goals will focus on accelerating performance for all students. Pinnacle Elementary School will engage students in rigorous instruction focused on attaining proficiency as well as college and career readiness. Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) data will be used to determine student progress, and a plan will be implemented to address individual and group needs identified through MTSS data. As a part of that plan, targeted instructional time (flex time) will be used to implement strategies to help students meet growth. Specifically, their goals for the 2021-2023 planning cycle center on improvement and strong performance in all core subject areas. Pinnacle Elementary School intends to *raise grade-level proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Reading to 70% or higher by June 2023, *raise grade-level proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Mathematics to 75% or higher by June 2023, *and raise grade-level proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Science to 85% or higher through June 2023.
Analysis of Organizational and Instructional Effectiveness
In order to achieve their desired outcomes and results, Pinnacle Elementary School’s internal and external stakeholders strongly believe that many traditional practices need to be continued since they have proven successful over the years with their student population. However, due to the changing dynamics of school environments created by a number of factors, including but not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic, their stakeholders also agree that it is important to implement several new practices and resources as they work to fill learning gaps for their students. To increase proficiency in mathematics and address identified mathematical areas of concern, the staff of Pinnacle Elementary School will deliver solid core mathematics instruction through Eureka Math with fidelity using resources from Math Instructional Framework, EmbarcOnline, and Tools4NCTeachers. Teachers will ensure that all instruction aligns to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. As stated earlier, 30.4% of students achieved proficiency on the spring 2021 mathematics end-of-grade test. To address identified mathematics deficits, Pinnacle Elementary School teachers will now include daily instruction of previously taught mathematics skills as a part of core instruction (daily spiral review). To increase mathematical understanding, number sense, and the ability to communicate mathematical thoughts effectively, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has recommended a practice of “Number Talks”. Pinnacle Elementary School will meet this recommendation by utilizing Tools4NCTeachers and associated professional development resources.
To increase proficiency in reading and address identified areas of concern in the area of literacy, the district has adopted Benchmark Advance curriculum for English Language Arts (ELA) instruction. Teachers will engage in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), professional development opportunities such as the LETRS Science of Reading training, and ongoing support from their instructional coach to ensure literacy instruction aligns to the body of research known as the Science of Reading. To foster the love of literacy and each student’s capacity for sustained independent reading, daily independent reading time will be provided as a part of core literacy time in all grades at Pinnacle Elementary School. The Heggerty phonemic awareness program, as well as daily explicit and systematic phonics instruction via Benchmark Advance, will be utilized to address identified foundational reading skills important to reading success.
In order to increase proficiency in science as measured by the spring 2021 fifth grade end-of-grade test results of 53.3%, teachers will work with local agencies such as the SEEDs program, KidSenses, Schiele Museum, and NC 4-H to increase interest, engagement, and achievement in science. Their stakeholders firmly believe the hands-on experiences provided by such resources will be a key component for student success. In addition, teachers will explicitly teach science vocabulary and build background knowledge in science concepts using their newly adopted Benchmark Advance curriculum. Teachers will coordinate regularly with the media specialist and the STEAM teacher to extend science topic learning through inquiry and research projects, as well as through interactive science activities utilizing Mystery Science and other participatory science resources.
As already noted, Pinnacle Elementary School is a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) school. The MTSS program incorporates an integrated academic and behavior system to identify students who struggle and provide targeted tiered instruction and interventions to meet the needs of every child. MTSS structure allows for the use of a variety of data points to establish appropriate supports for individual behavior and academic needs. An identified strength of Pinnacle Elementary School teachers is their ability to analyze, collaborate, and reach common findings through data analysis. Pinnacle Elementary School staff will analyze mClass and MAP data to determine what skills need to be addressed during whole and small group instruction throughout the 2021-2023 cycle. In addition to teacher assistants, multiple instructional tutors will be hired to assist with the delivery of math and reading instruction. Flex time is used by all grade levels to work with students in small groups on targeted math and literacy skills. Teachers will continue to collaborate with a district instructional coach, the Academically-and-Intellectually-Gifted (AIG) lead teacher, and the instructional technology facilitator to enhance student learning based on student needs indicated by frequent data analysis. To address behavioral concerns, data will be collected from appropriate screeners or other sources to identify students who need additional support through mentoring or daily check-in systems led by Pinnacle Elementary School staff. The data collected will also assist their school in improving school wide processes for dealing with behavioral or social-emotional challenges that students may experience.
External Stakeholder support for students is a strength for Pinnacle Elementary School. Their PTO and the Local Advisory Board will remain active collaborators in decision-making processes alongside Pinnacle Elementary School staff. Such collaboration will encourage many positive outcomes, including the creation of family involvement events meant to strengthen the sense of community and family within their school. It is essential that they also continue excellent teacher-parent communication as indicated by parent survey results mentioned earlier. The Backpack Program supported by the Rutherford County Schools Education Foundation, an additional external partner, will provide food for identified students on weekends and holidays as an added support to their families and surrounding community.
The school is a well-equipped facility containing safety panels, doors locked at the front entrance, and security cameras throughout the building. All visitors are required to check-in at the front office using the LobbyGuard safety check-in system. Procedures for crisis, fire, and tornado evacuations are posted in all areas. Safety training, as directed by both the state and the district, is conducted annually for all personnel. Also, teachers watch SafeSchools videos to be prepared for medical emergencies. The Sheriff Department’s School Resource Officers conduct daily walkthroughs of their elementary school. Fire, tornado, and crisis drills are practiced regularly to help students, teachers, and staff know proper procedures that will help to keep them safe during emergency situations. To mitigate illness in the school building, the school system has also recently added filtration systems to classrooms.
A book room containing teacher and student resources, as well as multiple licenses to educational sites, provides teachers with a multitude of resources to supplement the many curricular resources available in each classroom. As noted earlier, classrooms in kindergarten through fifth grade are equipped with iPads for each student. Each classroom is equipped with a Promethean board/smartboard and document camera. In recent years, many of the Promethean board units have been upgraded to mobile touch-screen boards with wireless connectivity, while other classrooms have access to Apple TV units. Using all of the resources available, Pinnacle Elementary School correlates the needs of their school with the local school district and the state to maintain a safe, healthy, and modern educational environment for each student and staff member.