Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School (FC-D) is located in Forest City, North Carolina. Forest City is a small town of only 8.2 square miles, with a population of 7,446 (2011). There are 3 subsidized housing complexes located near FC-D, totaling 290 housing units. Many of our students and their families reside in these housing units. FC-D is located within city limits and is adjacent to the Forest City Park.
Forest City-Dunbar School presently serves 437 students in Kindergarten through 5th grades and 36 additional students in pre-kindergarten, funded with Head Start and NC PreK funds. FC-D is a Title 1 school. Our student population presently consists of 36% black, 30% white, 19% Hispanic, 13% multi-racial, and 1% Asian. Our school serves English Learners, which is presently at 6.5% of our total population. The Rutherford County School district participates in the Community Eligibility Program which provides free breakfast and lunch to all students. Under this formula, 73% of Forest City - Dunbar students are considered economically disadvantaged.
Our school adopted 3 major initiatives in the spring of 2013 in order to address the academic and social challenges that many of our students faced: a flex or year-round calendar, after-school and intersession programs, and student prescriptive dress code.
The year-round calendar was started in the 2014-15 school year in an effort to provide more consistent instructional periods, with shorter breaks away from academic routines for students. The school year for students begins in mid-July and is divided into four 9-week grading periods with 3 week intersession breaks between each grading period. The students have about 4 weeks off in the “summer” between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next.
FC-Dunbar first received a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction beginning the 2013-14 school year. The grant provides funding for 150 Kindergarten-5th grade academically at-risk students opportunity to attend the Young Scholars After School Program Mondays through Thursdays from 3:00-6:00pm. Free snacks and transportation are provided to each participant. Students are given 45 minutes of additional math instruction, 45 minutes of reading instruction, and physical activity each day of the program. The grant also provides funding for 150 students to attend partial days (8:30-12:30) for a total of 6 weeks during the intersession breaks. Academic interventions in reading and math continue to be provided during this intersession period for those in attendance. Forest City - Dunbar was able to renew the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for the 2017-2020 cycle.
In an effort to build a sense of school pride, reduce distractions, and level the playing field regarding attire, Forest City –Dunbar first implemented a prescriptive dress code for students beginning the 2013-14 school year. Students are expected to wear polo style collared white or navy shirts and khaki or navy shorts, pants, or skorts(girls) to school each day as part of this dress code. The adoption of this dress code has instilled a sense of pride, confidence, and consistency among our student population.
Our school values outside partnerships as a way for our students to connect to the larger community and those who may bring a variety of perspectives to the learning process. In 2018-19 we began an initiative entitled "Man-Up" in which 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade boys who have had limited experiences with positive male role-models are paired with a male mentor. We were able to pair nearly 60 men with male students. The had a banquet to kick-off their relationship and subsequently had opportunities to interact at lunch time and other school day visits. Additional mentors, trained at the district level, have been assigned to students who need more one-on-one adult interaction to support their social and emotional health. Adult volunteers are trained to be "Reading Buddies" who meet with younger students to give them a caring adult to read with.
Our partnership with the McNair Educational Foundation has provided our students with exposure to college and career preparation. The McNair "High School Heroes" come annually to work with our 3rd graders to study colleges and universities in small groups. They culminate their study with a presentation in which they share facts they learned and showcase a display about the university they have researched. Students, staff and community members come to interact with the 3rd graders during this "College Fair." The McNair Rope Award requirements help our school by encouraging high school students to earn volunteer hours by assisting teachers and students at our school. We have 10 to 15 high school students volunteer to assist at our school at various times throughout the year during the regular school day, especially in July and August, and during the After School Program.
Forest City - Dunbar is a "Leader in Me" school. The "Leader in Me" is based on Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and focuses on the importance of leadership skills for all students to meet their goals and individual potential. Faculty and staff began the training from the FranklinCovey organization in the spring of 2014. The school has organized a Lighthouse Leadership Team and Action Teams to support the implementation of learned strategies. Our school is working toward achieving "Lighthouse School" recognition as a "Leader in Me" school by building a portfolio of achievements and benchmarks as defined by this process.
Stakeholder feedback through surveys such as AdvancED and Teacher Working Conditions has shown improvements over time in a number of notable areas. The highest level of satisfaction among staff, parents, and students in the AdvancED survey was in the categories of "Purpose and Direction" and "Uses Results for Continuous Improvement." In the most recent NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey, our school received universally high marks for access to facilities and resources. Additionally, teachers perceptions of parent and community member support for our school has improved over the last three Teacher Working Conditions Survey cycles. The most improved responses to questions on the Teacher Working Conditions Survey over the last 3 cycles included "Teachers have available time to collaborate" (77% to 93%), "efforts are made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do" (46% to 68%), "teachers have sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all students" (60% to 78%), "teachers are recognized as educational experts" (77% to 95%), and "teachers are relied on to make decisions about educational issues" (77% to 90%).
The impact of the initiatives FC-Dunbar has implemented over the past few years can be recognized through improved academic performance, as well as positive perceptions among all stakeholders. The school improved its school performance letter grade from a D with growth not being met in 2013-14 to a C with growth being met in 2014-15. Subsequently, overall school report card grades were sustained at a grade of C for the 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 school years. The overall performance score has improved from a 54 in 2013-14 to 66 in 2018-19.
Beliefs and Mission
VISION: Together We Can
Creating Leaders Who SHINE: Successful, Happy, Innovative, Nurturing, Empowered
Our original school vision, Together We Can Make a Difference- Educators, Students, Families, and Communities in a never ending circle, was developed when Forest City Elementary and Dunbar Elementary became housed in one building. Our goal was to model cohesiveness with the two schools, as well as our families and the surrounding community.
We have since shortened our school vision to “Together We Can.” The idea is to continue to evoke synergy and teamwork, but to leave the subject of what we “can” do open to anything.
Forest City - Dunbar has received training in the “Leader in Me” program which focuses on building the capacity of each person as a leader. This is founded in the “7 Habits of Happy Kids,” which is also incorporated into our PBIS matrix. During one of our "Leader in Me" trainings, the faculty discussed ideas to reflect leadership within our school mission statement. A group during one of the training activities came up with "Creating Leaders Who SHINE" to play on our Superstars mascot. Ideas were sought from the faculty to develop the words to make up the acronym "SHINE." Once the idea of using "Successful, Happy, Innovative, Nurturing, Empowered" was proposed to make up the word SHINE, the idea was presented to the faculty, School Improvement Team, and Local Advisory Council for their approval. Being "Successful" is about being prepared to do your best. "Happy" is a state of mind that signals good social and emotional health. "Innovative" is a word that reflects creativity and forward thinking. To be "Nurturing" is to care for the well-being of others and to be helpful. To be "Empowered" is to have the confidence to be independent and able to accomplish one's goals.
We believe that the words that make-up the acronym "SHINE" reflect the need to meet the needs of the whole-child. This partnered with the desire to develop students who are leaders is at the core of all decisions we make to improve the outcomes of our students. We have purposefully selected language for our mission that is easy to remember and clearly identifiable when analyzing whether initiatives match our school mission. FC-Dunbar continues to use leadership teams to analyze the effectiveness of its programs and the impact they have on achieving our stated vision and mission. The Lighthouse Team, MTSS Team, School Improvement Team, Local Advisory Council, and Grade-level PLCs all make connections to the vision and mission when analyzing school programs, policies, and procedures.
In August of 2019, our school approved to change our mascot from the "Superstars" to the "Wolfpack." This change was done with the feedback of students and staff. We are in the process of reviewing ideas for an updated logo and will likely need to modify our Mission statement to reflect our new mascot selection, since the current mission is based on the Superstar theme. This transition will take place gradually over the course of the 2019-20 school year. We want to ensure that our mascot, logo, vision, and mission statement accurately reflect who we are as a school community.
Desired Outcomes and Results
The Forest City - Dunbar priorities for student outcomes were taken from feedback received from the School Improvement Team, Local Advisory Council, MTSS Team, Grade-Level PLCs, and Leader in Me Lighthouse Team, as well as feedback from student and parent surveys. An analysis of feedback led to the recognition of specific priorities for student achievement. At the same time, school stakeholders seek to align student outcomes with the expectations of the Rutherford County Schools Strategic Plan, Vision, and Mission.
Student performance data is a key component of decision-making at Forest City - Dunbar. Multiple academic measures are studied to draw conclusions and make decisions as to how to effectively address recognized weaknesses. Teachers are provided with student performance data through IStation results, EOG data, AimsWeb/Acadience progress monitoring and benchmark data, and MAP assessments. A spreadsheet of the historical EOG results from 2013-2019 can be found in the Supplemental Materials section of the School Improvement Plan. The analysis of this data has led us to set the following academic performance goals as part of the previous School Improvement Plan cycle.
Goal: Forest City - Dunbar Elementary School will increase student proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Reading to at least 63% by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Baseline Performance: Reading Proficiency on the EOG was 49.8% in 2018-19.
Goal: Forest City - Dunbar Elementary School will increase student proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Math to at least 75% by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Baseline Performance: Reading Proficiency on the EOG was 67.6% in 2018-19.
Goal: Forest City - Dunbar Elementary School will increase student proficiency on the 5th Grade North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Science to at least 80% by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Baseline Performance: Reading Proficiency on the EOG was 78.3% in 2018-19.
When we achieve these goals, we will increase the number of students who are prepared for academic success when they complete their elementary studies and transition to the middle school and assist the district in meeting their Strategic Performance Outcomes. As a reflection of our school mission statement: "Creating Leaders Who SHINE: Successful, Happy, Innovative, Nurturing, Empowered, we work to teach the "whole-child" and address their academic and social-emotional needs. This aligns with the Rutherford County Schools district transformation strategies.
RCS District Transformation Strategy 1: Engage every student in rigorous, personalized learning focused on college and career success. The "S" in our mission stands for "Success." We strive to lead each child to achieve success by preparing them to be proficient in the skills in reading and math needed to lead them toward educational benchmarks that will provide them opportunities for career and college success.
RCS District Transformation Strategy 2: Ensure that a comprehensive, integrated system of support fosters students' social and emotional health. The "H" for "Happy" and "N" for "Nurturing" in our mission statement focus on the importance of caring for one's self and for others.
RCS District Transformation Strategy 3: Ensure all students' equitable access to safe, modern educational facilities and appropriate learning resources. The "I" for "Innovative" highlights our focus on using instructional technology as a means to improve learning and effective communication skills. We strive to create a culture where students are encouraged to be creative with the resources they are afforded.
RCS District Transformation Strategy 4: Initiate, sustain, and leverage strong external partnerships that support student learning and school success. The "E" for "Empowered" is a reflection of the need to teach students to be independent and to accomplish their goals. However, this skill must be done in collaboration with others. While independence and confidence is key to success, success is maximized when we synergize with others. We seek to work with our current partnerships and expend them in an effort to teach students to be empowered to work collaboratively for success.
Analysis of Organizational and Instructional Effectiveness
District Transformation Strategy 1: Engage every student in rigorous, personalized learning focused on college and career success:
Strengths: Forest City - Dunbar's overall EOG proficiency has improved from 57.9% in 2016-17 to 61.7% in 2018-19. Math EOG Proficiency has increased from 58% in 2016-17 to 67.4% in 2018-19. While we did not meet the 80% proficiency target set as part of the previous School Improvement Planning cycle, our 5th Grade Science EOG scores improved from 58.8% in 2016-17 to 78.3% in 2018-19.
The support provided by Title I funded Lead Teacher, focused professional development through "Teacher Talk Tuesdays," a strengthened focus on Standards based-teaching, the Young Scholars After School and Intersession programs, and the use of leveled blocks of reading and math instruction have positively contributed to students' increased proficiency rate.
Areas Needing Improvement: While overall subject area scores have increased over the long-term, our EOG Reading scores have not made expected leveled of improvement. Overall EOG Proficiency in Reading fell from 57.6 in 2016-17 to 50.7 in 2018-19. Third grade saw the highest proficiency rate in the past 5 years with 65% proficiency in Reading. However, the 4th and 5th grade Reading proficiency was the lower than the 2016-17 baseline year.
Many of the 4th and 5th graders lacked mastery of foundational reading skills and reading fluency, which led to a lack of understanding of what they are reading. Our district and school has adopted the Letterland Phonics program since 2017-18. The 4th and 5th graders were instructed using Saxon Phonics, which was not as effective in helping students understand how to use phonics in reading mastery. We also recognize the need to place greater emphasis on independent reading practice in early grades.
Additionally, we found that a nearly 10 percentage point gap on the first administration of the EOG Reading test and MAP Reading Proficiency. Ten percent of students scored "proficient" on end of year MAP Reading assessments that did not make a proficient score on the first administration of the Reading EOG test.
District Transformational Strategy 2: Ensure that a comprehensive, integrated system of support fosters students' social and emotional health.
Strengths: Forest City - Dunbar continues to utilize "The Leader in Me" program based on Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to teach social and emotional skills based on a leadership theme. Additionally, through an RCS district partnership with Family Preservations Services, FC-Dunbar houses an embedded day treatment model to serve K-5 students with mental health needs. This began in November of 2016.
As a result of our efforts to teach and reinforce appropriate behaviors, we have reduced office discipline referrals dramatically over the past three years. When considering Office Discipline Referrals for all reasons, they have decreased from 898 in 2016-17, to 444 in 2017-18, to 200 in 2018-19. More specifically, Out of School Suspensions were reduced from 125 in 2016-17 to 30 in 2017-18 to 36 in 2018-19.
Areas Needing Improvement: All certified staff have received training on Community Resiliency Model strategies. While we have learned some techniques and strategies for addressing students and other individuals with chronic stressors and symptoms of exposure to trauma, we need to improve the consistency with which we utilize these strategies.
District Transformation Strategy 3: Ensure all students equitable access to safe, modern, educational facilities and appropriate learning resources.
Strengths: Our school facilities are modern and well maintained. The building was constructed in 2000, with the addition of a wing in 2002. Through the support of Title I and district funds, each classroom is equipped with interactive whiteboards for instructional use. The school is blessed to have access to the fields and walking track adjacent to the building that is maintained by the Town of Forest City. With the support of our PTO and district maintenance, we have created a lively and positive school environment that reflects our focus on student leadership. Additionally, classroom teachers have taken the initiative to create inviting and welcoming learning environments in their classrooms. Through the Going GLOBAL district initiative, all K-4 students are assigned individual iPads and 5 graders are assigned MacBooks.
Areas Needing Improvement: Some of the classrooms on the A and B halls still have carpet that was installed when the building was constructed in 2000. District funds supported the replacement of carpet in six classrooms and the Media Center between 2017 and 2018. Plans are in place to replace some of the remaining classrooms that have carpet with tile during the September intersession break.
District Transformation Strategy 4: Initiate, sustain, and leverage strong external partnerships that support students learning and school success.
Strengths: With the support of the district, we maintain a strong Weekend Backpack Food Program for students in need. Our program has provided weekend food supplies for nearly 75 students for a number of years. Food supplies are donated by a variety of local and regional non-profits and churches. We additionally sustain partnerships with local churches and individual donors to provide funds to support families who need assistance with purchasing student uniforms. Our school has been able to maintain and expand mentors and Reading Buddies for students needing additional one-on-one positive adult interactions. In 2018-19, an initiative entitled the "Man Up" program was established to provide positive male mentors/role-models for upper grade boys who did not have a consistent male parent figure in their lives. We were able to commit 60 adult males from the community to partner with 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade male students.
Areas Needing Improvement: In late 2018-2019, some discussions began with our Principal and the Mayor of Forest City to brainstorm ideas that he and his office could be more involved in activities relating to Forest City - Dunbar. We hope to follow through with these ideas and expand our connection with the Town of Forest City leadership and community to strengthen our school's connection with the town in which we are located.
In order to achieve our School Improvement Goals, we must align our prioritized goals from the district level down to individual student level. For this reason, we have created a system of setting Wildly Important Goals for each level that align with Rutherford County Schools Performance Targets. Our overall academic School Improvement Goals, shared above, give us specific targets to achieve. The principal has set his personalized target to meet these goals as a school and to create an atmosphere of learning that leads to achieving those goals. Teachers set individual goals as a part of their Professional Development Plans that provide specific student performance targets that will contribute to achieving the School Improvement Goals. Students are taught to set their own personal Wildly Important Goals. We will have students create their own Leadership Notebooks in which they are able to write down these goals and track their own progress toward achieving them. By creating an aligned, multi-layered plan for goal setting, progress monitoring, and celebration of achievement, we are creating a system that will improve our likelihood of success.