Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School (FCDES) is located in Forest City, North Carolina. Forest City is a small town of only 8.2 square miles, with a population of 7,404 (2014). 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 Summey Park. Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School presently serves 488 students in Kindergarten through 5th grades and 36 additional students in pre-kindergarten, funded with Head Start and NC PreK funds. FCDES is a Title 1 school. Our student population presently consists of 32% black, 33% white, 23% Hispanic, 11% multi-racial, and 1% Asian. Our school serves English Learners, which is presently at 9.7% 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, 67.4% 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. FCDES 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 the opportunity to attend the Young Scholars After School Program Mondays through Thursdays from 3:15-6:15pm. Free meals and transportation are provided to each participant. Students are given 45 minutes of academic support, 60 minutes of reading instruction, and 60 minutes of either STEM activities or Leader In Me (social-emotional support) 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. FCDES was able to renew the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for the 2020-2023 cycle.
In an effort to build a sense of school pride, reduce distractions, and level the playing field regarding attire, FCDES 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 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.
FCDES 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.
The impact of the initiatives FCDES 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, 2018-19, and 2021-22 school years. The overall performance score has improved from a 54 in 2013-14 to 66 in 2021-22.
Although missed instructional time due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020 has had a disruptive impact on the positive trajectory in academic progress, FCDES has effectively addressed these concerns. We were able to maintain our exact overall report card score from 2018-19 to 2021-22. The focus on core instruction and effective interventions has helped us to ensure that students came out of the pandemic with similar academic outcomes.
Beliefs and Mission
VISION: Together We Can
MISSION: 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.
FCDES 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. FCDES 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.
Desired Outcomes and Results
FCDES 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 mClass results, EOG data, progress monitoring and benchmark data, and MAP assessments. A spreadsheet of the historical EOG results from 2013-2021 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.
At the beginning of this current school improvement cycle, our school began to vertically align goals to ensure that district, school, teacher, and student outcomes supported each other to ensure success. School improvement goals have been aligned with district strategic goals. The principal sets his individual goals as part of the evaluation process to support the school improvement plan. The principal works with teachers to set Professional Development Plan (PDP) goals as part of their evaluation process to ensure they align with district and school goals.
All students in grades K-5 take the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) benchmark assessments in math and reading three times per year. These assessments have a strong positive correlation with state End of Grade assessment results. For this reason, MAP scores in reading and math are used to set teacher PDP goals. This also allows teachers at all grades to determine their movement toward student achievement throughout the school year. Also, teachers at all grades can use the same assessment to determine goals. Finally, teachers support students in setting personal academic and behavioral goals that help them to make progress toward achieving their goal for proficiency in reading and math. This ensures that all levels are working toward aligning their actions toward a common goal of student success.
Goal: Forest City - Dunbar Elementary School will increase student proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Reading to at least 52% by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Baseline Performance: Reading Proficiency on the EOG was 38.5% in 2020-21. Reading Proficiency on the EOG progressed to 49% in 2021-22.
Goal: Forest City - Dunbar Elementary School will increase student proficiency on the North Carolina End-of-Grade Test of Math to at least 70% by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. This goal is increased from the 60% goal we set at the beginning of the current School Improvement Plan cycle. Baseline Performance: Math Proficiency on the EOG was 47.6% in 2020-21. Math Proficiency on the EOG progressed to 68.3% in 2021-22.
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 2021-2023 school year. Baseline Performance: Science Proficiency on the EOG was 60.2% in 2020-21. Science Proficiency on the EOG progressed to 72.6% in 2021-22.
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 expand 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: When analyzing 2021-22 EOG results, the School Improvement Team identified the following academic strengths:
EVAAS Growth goals were Met in Math with an index score of 0.98. EVAAS Growth goals were Exceeded in Reading with an index score of 2.71. All subgroups met EVAAS growth goals. The economically disadvantaged subgroup exceeded EVAAS growth goals. Reading EOG performance composite was a 57 - C. Math EOG performance composite was a 71 - B.
There was not a significant difference in the performance composite scores between the three racial subgroups represented at FCDES: Black 66-C, Hispanic 64-C, White 62-C.
Areas Needing Improvement: While our students have made significant improvements in Reading proficiency and growth, there is still a wide gap between Reading performance and Math performance. Still just under half of our students (49%) can read proficiently at grade level.
Additionally, when looking at scores from the “Career and College Ready (Levels 4 & 5)” designation, there are gaps that need to be addressed. Students who are at a Level 3 in a subject are more likely to drop to “Not Proficient” the next school year if their performance deficits are not corrected. The figures below shows the difference in percentage between Grade Level Proficiency (Levels 3, 4, 5) and Career and College Ready (Levels 4 and 5 only).
Reading Grades 3rd-5th: Proficient 49% Career and College Ready 31.3% Difference -17.7%
Math Grades 3rd-5th Proficient 68.3% Career and College Ready 41.5% Difference -27%
Another area to address is the number of students who are able to pass during the second administration of testing. During the 2021-22 testing period, we completed a second administration of EOG tests in reading, math and science to 45 students. Of those who took the second administration, 77.7% passed. Although they did receive the required hours of remediation prior to retesting, it is likely that these students had the skills to pass during the first administration.
Although the school does get credit for improved proficiency scores, it does not get credit for growth scores. Many of these students (22 of 35 / 62.8%) made Levels 4 or 5 on the retest. This would undoubtedly have led to significant growth scores for these students had they made these scores on the first administration. We need to focus on ways to ensure that students do their best on the first administration of the EOG test in the future.
Poorer student attendance during the 2021-22 school year, led to more challenges in delivering adequate instruction to students with chronic absenteeism. In 2018-19 prior to COVID, FCDES average daily attendance was 93.3%. This dropped to 88.6% in 2021-22. We plan to provide greater supports to chronically absent students and their families in response to what we feel has been a lack of understanding of the importance of being at school following the challenges of the pandemic.
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. Thirty minutes is dedicated in the schedule for each grade level daily to teach the “7 Habits” and social emotional and goal setting concepts covered under “The Leader in Me.” Teachers utilize a pacing guide and instructional online resources to teach “The Leader in Me” daily.
Teachers, support staff, and administrators at Forest City - Dunbar are well trained in identifying student social-emotional needs and adapting classroom supports to help students to be as successful as possible in the classroom. While this at times is done informally, teachers are skilled at creating accommodations and flexible learning environments to maximize student potential.
In 2021-22, we were able to create a “specials” class focusing on social-emotional skills that all K-5 students attend weekly. This class is led by a teacher assistant who teaches social-emotional skills in context of the Leader in Me and the “7 Habits.” This class came about through the suggestion of our School Improvement Team as a way to support the needs of students to have more in-depth learning about how to get along with peers, make priorities, problem-solve, and communicate effectively. The lessons taught in this class are supported by the concepts taught during daily Leader in Me lessons in the regular classroom. Areas Needing Improvement: On the 2022 NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey, staff responses to the following questions regarding student conduct included:
“Students at this school understand expectations for their conduct.” - 86.9%
“Students at this school follow rules of conduct.” - 67.3%
The gap between staff’s perceptions of student understanding of rules versus their compliance with the rules needs to be addressed. Through discussions with our School Improvement Team, some of these issues lie with the disruptions caused by students who chronically fail to follow school rules. These students create challenges in the classroom and disruption to the learning environment. While many of these students suffer from mental health issues, we need to target their specific behaviors to positively reinforce desired actions. This can come in the form of behavior plans created with the help of the teacher, parents, administration and support staff.
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. 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-5 students are assigned individual iPads, with the option of taking these devices home if a parent pays the required usage fee or qualifies for a waiver.
Teacher perceptions of our available facilities and resources are consistently positive. In the most recent 2022 NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey, 89% or more of the teacher responses were positive to each of the questions in the Facilities and Resources category. The highest positive ratings (100%) came in the areas of technology equipment and physical resources.
Areas Needing Improvement: The playground equipment available to our students was installed during the initial construction of the school in 2000 and the addition in 2002. While most of the equipment is in sufficient condition, there is a need for updated and expanded playground equipment to broaden inclusive play opportunities for students in grades K-5 and students with special needs.
Our school has four self-contained exceptional children’s classrooms serving students with intellectual and physical disabilities. There are limited appropriate play spaces for this population of children. As a Special Olympics Unified school, we seek to ensure inclusive play and interactions between disabled and non-disabled students. Expanding inclusive play spaces would improve our opportunities to facilitate these interactions.
Additionally, the surfaces on each of the K-5 playgrounds is covered with safe-fall mulch. This requires a raised barrier to keep the mulch in place. These barriers can become a tripping hazard when children fail to clear the distance when stepping over them. This coupled with the cost of refilling decayed and insufficient levels of mulch necessitate replacement of the surface with a more sustainable material such as a rubber surface.
District Transformation Strategy 4: Initiate, sustain, and leverage strong external partnerships that support students learning and school success. Strengths: During the 2021-22 school year, some of our teachers led the initiative to create a mentoring program for students in 4th and 5th grades. Mentors attended four “Leadership Breakfasts” at school with their mentees. This was done in small group formats so every child in those grades could participate. Students were organized by gender and were assigned mentees that matched their gender. The mentees were provided with conversation starters each month to facilitate discussion. Mentors were expected to check in with their individual mentees at least once per month. Areas Needing Improvement:
An additional area needing improvement is our relationship with the local government and businesses in Forest City. Although our school boundaries cover most of the town limits of Forest City, we do not have established partnerships with local businesses or our town leaders. We need to strive to make stronger connections with these groups. 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.