Rutherford County Schools

382 West Main Street
Forest City, NC 28043


All Rutherford County students will graduate prepared for college and career success.

2021-2023 School Improvement Plan

East Rutherford Middle School

Dr. Lindsay Walker, Principal

259 East Church Street
Bostic, NC 28018
Telephone: 828-245-3750 | Fax: 828-245-1491

Section 1: School Profile

Section 1: School Profile
Student and Community Demographic Data
East Rutherford Middle School (ERMS) is located in Bostic, North Carolina. Bostic is a small town of 0.9 square miles with a population of 381. The students of ERMS live in the rural communities of Bostic, Forest City, Ellenboro, and Sunshine with a total population of 9,992. The current enrollment of ERMS school is 578. The average class size is 6th grade, 21 students,7th grade 23 students,8th grade 17 students, and Math 1 25 students. ERMS has 47 certified personnel and 18 support staff. Teaching experiences range from 71.3% Experienced Teachers, 22.9% Beginning Teachers, and 5.7% Provisional Teachers. According to the 2019 NC School Report Card, ERMS met Academic Growth with 78.9% and received a Performance Grade Score of 65 C.

At ERMS all students receive free breakfast and lunch as a result of the Community Eligibility Provision Program (CGP) offered through the USDA. Rutherford County’s motto of “Small Town Friendly” describes the county well. People smile, wave, and speak when you pass by them in the grocery store or on the street. This rural county is continuing to adapt to the changes brought about by technology. The construction of a Facebook data center, the completion of the Public Safety Fiber Network, and the development of the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center have helped usher Rutherford County into the twenty-first century, providing the necessary tools and infrastructure for the county’s citizens to be globally competitive (Miller, 2010; Golden LEAF, 2009).
Our school has adopted several major initiatives to support student learning, positive behavior, and social emotional learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused students and teachers to rethink education and adjust to ever-changing conditions. Over the past year and a half, teachers have become adept at creating instructional videos, using our Learning Management System, (LMS) Canvas, to provide a consistent structure for the delivery of content, and communicating with students through technological platforms. Returning all students to our building this school year has caused the faculty to reteach expectations for behavior and academic performance and to find avenues for social emotional support for colleagues, students, and families.

What I Need Now (WIN) Time
During 2017 -2018 our school implemented a school-wide intervention block WIN Time to meet the academic needs of our students. Over the last several years, we have included both reading and math skills during this intervention block, providing research-based interventions in two areas. Based on data from the 2020-2021 school year, it is apparent that the amount of unfinished learning in math exceeds the amount of unfinished learning in reading, so our focus for WIN for the first semester of 2021-2022 is math. We plan to implement literacy interventions through core instruction, Viking Valor (an exploratory class targeting tier 2 and tier 3 students), and through cross-disciplinary reading strategies and graphic organizers. We will also begin to address literacy skills through WIN time beginning the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year and continue to address both math and reading through WIN time for the remainder of WIN’s tenure.

Best practice stipulates that teachers continue to teach grade-level content standards even though the level of unfinished learning is higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to support math teachers who are using core content time to focus on grade-level standards, a forty-minute WIN period has been included in the daily schedule. A list of prerequisite skills was compiled for each math unit of study at each grade level. These prerequisite skills are needed in order for students to access grade-level content in the core math classes. Pretesting the prerequisites for each math unit allows for flexible grouping as students who have not mastered lower grade-level standards will be placed in tiers 2 or 3 for reteaching. Students who prove mastery of prior skills will be placed in tier 1 and will work on projects that enhance their understanding of the upcoming unit of mathematical study. Each tier is designed to meet student needs. Tier 3 and 2 groups will be capped at 10 and 15 students respectively so that each student can receive individualized attention. Tier 1 students will work together in pairs or small groups to accomplish challenging tasks related to upcoming math content.

The WIN activities for tiers 3 and 2 are based on the research that mathematics should be taught conceptually using the concrete-representational-abstract method of instruction. Students are shown the “why” and derive rules and algorithms through hands-on activities or drawings that represent abstract concepts. Eventually, students move to complete operations with abstract numbers and begin to solve mathematical problems more efficiently.
A variety of academic support and enhancement programs are offered to our students during our daily WIN time. WIN lessons were written by Rutherford County middle school math teachers. The lessons are housed in Google sheets and are accessible by all grade level WIN teachers.
Teachers also have access to a variety of online instructional resources such as Freckle, Khan Academy, and Assistments. Read Theory and Easy CBM will also be incorporated in WIN time. Teachers use the LMS Canvas to deliver the content and collection of assignments and data.

Technology supports student learning at ERMS. ERMS provides a one-to-one environment in which every student has an iPad for use at school and home. All classrooms are equipped with Promethean boards and Apple TVs. Teachers also have access to a document camera, Macbook, and iPad to use for teaching and learning. All teachers use Canvas with a county-provided, consistent template so that students and parents can easily navigate to view assignments and expectations. Our school has a green screen room where students can create videos and have access to a 3D printer. With the support of the Rutherford County Education Foundation and Facebook, we are creating a new STEM classroom. We are also in the process of collaborating with Facebook to build an outdoor STEM classroom to provide more hands-on learning. Teachers will be provided with professional development to address resources that promote student-owned learning, relevancy, 21st-century skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. We are continuing to grow with our digital learning competency goals focus on digital, citizenship, data, and assessment.
ERMS also follows the Rutherford County Middle School rigor program, which allows students who are identified as Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) or who meet high-performance requirements to take advanced classes. These students qualify to take high school-level courses in the 8th grade such as English I, Earth and Environmental Science, Math I, and Math II. These students are also working above grade level in language arts and follow a school-based curriculum that employs above grade level materials and higher-level thinking strategies and activities.

ERMS offers a variety of clubs and sports. There are 12 sports including football, baseball, cheerleading, basketball, cross country, soccer, golf, softball, tennis, track, volleyball, and wrestling. Clubs and organizations at the school are the North Carolina Junior Beta Club, Student Council, Quiz Bowl, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, New Century Scholars, Battle of the Books, Buddy Club, Robotics, Band, and Chorus.

School safety is vital to providing a quality learning environment for students and teachers at East Rutherford Middle School. In the 2016-2017 school year ERMS implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). ERMS has been awarded a Green Ribbon for this work in 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 through NCDPI. The multi-device platform makes it easy to continuously recognize students for meeting behavior expectations from anywhere in the school, not just the classroom. ERMS sets clear expectations with our Valor Matrix. This is posted in each classroom, hallway, and lunchroom. Students are taught the expectations outlined in the matrix beginning in the 6th grade and will follow the same matrix through the 8th grade. Students who meet or exceed behavioral expectations are awarded each six weeks with a celebration. Celebrations include icees, popsicles, cookies, games, dances, etc. ERMS uses Educator’s Handbook to help track discipline. All students are entered into the system and any teacher can record an incident for any student who is not meeting behavior expectations after being given an opportunity to correct that behavior. Incidents are tracked every six weeks. Students who have a pre-determined number of disciplinary infractions are not able to join the PBIS celebrations. Teachers use Educator’s Handbook to track student behavior infractions. As a school, we have reviewed the VALOR Matrix and explained our expectations for different areas of our school to students. As teachers and staff, we have reinforced and reminded students of these expectations throughout the first few weeks of school. Students who do not follow the valor matrix expectations are written up in the Educator’s Handbook. The PBIS team wanted to focus more on communication between parents and teachers due to COVID-19 and the learning loss of students. As a team this year, we implemented the same guidelines but included more parent contacts in the progression of minor disciplinary write-ups in Educator’s Handbook. Since we are in school five days a week this year we determined as a team that we needed to bring back tickets as a reward. Students can earn tickets in the classroom for following the VALOR Matrix. We have also developed a system that allows teachers to reward students for good behavior throughout the six weeks and not just at the big celebrations at the end of each six weeks. Each hall has come up with different ideas/rewards students can earn with a certain amount of tickets. The PBIS team has talked about school-wide rewards for tickets (i.e store outside the office) and plan to determine specific school-wide incentives throughout the year.

Our teachers and staff are implementing the Second Step program beginning this school year throughout all grade levels. This program takes a holistic approach to Social Emotional Learning (SEL). We will be teaching students techniques such as: how to gain confidence, setting personal goals, and how to work with others. We will focus on improving cooperation, communication, and decision making. The school counselor will provide a supporting role in addressing these social emotional needs through classroom lessons, individual sessions, and small groups. The counselor will send out a School Counseling Needs Assessment Form to staff and administrators to find the areas of SEL that we need to address in our school. Following the assessment outcome, the counselor will determine what SEL small groups are needed in our school and begin implementation in the third 6 weeks. These small groups will meet with the counselor during their exploratory time.

Our partnership with the McNair Educational Foundation has provided our students with exposure to a mentor in the 7th and 8th grades as well as resources for college and career preparation. We also allow East High School seniors who are earning the McNair Rope Award requirements to help our school. The seniors earn volunteer hours by assisting teachers and students at our school. We have 5-10 high school students volunteer to assist at our school at various times throughout the year during the regular school day, especially during after-school events such as sporting events or special programs.

Student Performance Data
State-wide assessments of student learning are conducted in reading, mathematics, and 8th-grade science. All students in grades six through eight are required to participate in statewide testing. The percentage of our students who are grade-level proficient based on state standards in reading and math for the 2020-2021 school year is 40.7%.
Stakeholder Perspectives on the Quality of Education
The School Improvement Team closely monitors various sources of data to drive our decision-making, one of which is the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey. East Rutherford Middle School's focus on providing quality teaching and learning is supported by the results of the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey for the 2019-2020 school year.
The NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey claims "teachers have time to collaborate with colleagues" in our school (85%) and that "teachers are allowed to focus on instruction with minimal interruptions" (83%). Teachers agree that "teachers are recognized as educational experts" (93%) and that "teachers are trusted to make professional decisions about instruction (90%) and see themselves as effective leaders" (97%). According to the results, some areas for concern include "differentiation of professional development" and "evaluation of professional development and feedback." Overall, teachers agree that "professional development enhances the teacher's ability to improve student learning" at East Rutherford Middle School. Teachers agree "that East Rutherford Middle School is a good place to work and learn" (88%).

Section 2: Beliefs and Mission

Section 2: Beliefs and Mission
Preparing Students Today for Success Tomorrow!
East Rutherford Middle School, as part of Rutherford County Schools, is committed to partnering with family and community to ensure the success of our students today and in the future. Through excellence in instruction and technology, we will shape thoughtful, articulate young adults who are constructive members of a diverse, dynamic, and global society.

ERMS staff collaboratively composed the following six statements:
* All students can learn.
* Students learn in different ways and should be provided with a variety of instructional approaches to support their learning.
* Challenging expectations increase individual student performance.
* Each student is a valued individual with unique physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs.
* A safe and physically comfortable environment promotes student learning.
* Teachers, administrators, parents, and the community share the responsibility for advancing a school’s mission.

Each classroom displays the ERMS Vision and Mission statements. The vision statement is displayed in the entryway of the school building. ERMS's website also promotes the vision statement.

Section 3: Desired Outcomes and Results

Section 3: Desired Outcomes and Results

East Rutherford Middle School’s School Improvement Team (SIT) has established a shared vision for our school by reviewing our previously established belief statements, past and present performance data, and our desired outcomes for all students. Our school vision, mission, and beliefs continuously drive all important decisions made within the school, including policy and resource allocation decisions. These key decisions are initially brought to the school improvement team for discussion and evaluation to determine if they support the vision of preparing students to be successful in the future. The school improvement team continuously focuses on improving student and teacher performance, as well as, effectively using available resources to best meet the needs of all stakeholders. In addition, the team closely monitors performance indicators to ensure that our efforts are focused on carrying out our mission. To this end, we acknowledge that performance on standardized assessments, both proficiency, and growth, must be a priority for the work of our school improvement team. In order to evaluate our performance and identify areas of specific need, ERMS uses Education Value-Added Assessment (EVAAS), End-of-Grade data (EOG), as well as local data such as Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and NC Check-Ins. Pre-assessment and post-assessment scores will be analyzed for each mathematical unit of study.
ERMS recognizes that in order to truly be successful in meeting the needs of our students and our community, we must align our school improvement plans with the plans of the district, state, and nation for improving public education. In order to prepare our students for careers of the future, ERMS has committed to working together to ensure that our students are fully equipped.

East Rutherford Middle School’s vision of preparing students today for success tomorrow reflects the district’s same vision of preparing students for college and career success. In order to meet the challenge of preparing ERMS students for their future, we recognize that the ERMS mission must include partnering with families and community members. These partnerships are invaluable to ensuring student success because they provide students with much needed support and resources. This same appreciation for the need to form partnerships with families and communities is reflected in the district’s mission statement as well. In addition, ERMS’s mission also reflects the district’s mission of preparing students to be successful in a global society or community. Both the ERMS and the district recognize the need to prepare students for the demands of a larger, more global community as the jobs of the future will exist outside the bounds of our community or state. In addition, ERMS's mission of providing excellence in instruction to shape thoughtful, articulate young adults who are constructive members of society aligns perfectly with the North Carolina State Board of Education’s stated vision of graduating students that are “prepared to be globally engaged and productive citizens,” as well as the US Department of Education’s mission of promoting “student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

East Rutherford Middle School also recognizes that it is not enough to align the vision and mission to that of the district, state, and nation, but that must also align ERMS expectations for student outcomes. ERMS must determine the desired student goals in order to carry out our stated vision. To that end, ERMS set about identifying our expected student outcome as detailed in the following paragraphs.

By the time students leave East Rutherford Middle School, it is anticipated that they will have a solid understanding of core subject area content, as well as a knowledge of and ability to demonstrate the skills needed to be successful in high school and beyond. This includes the ability to collaborate well with others, complete tasks on time, work independently, critically evaluate information, solve problems, generate ideas, communicate efficiently, and effectively use technology. To further align with the district’s strategic plan and ensure that students have a solid understanding of core content, ERMS has set the goal of meeting or exceeding regional averages on the percentage of students achieving Level III or better performance on North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests of mathematics, reading, and science, as well as on North Carolina End-of-Course Test for Math I. In addition, in order to shape thoughtful, articulate young adults who are constructive members of a diverse, dynamic, and global society, there is an emphasis to help students develop healthy habits and strong leadership skills.

Goal Statement 1: East Rutherford Middle School will increase student proficiency on the NC EOG Test of Science at Grade 8 to at least 75% by the end of the 2021- 2022 school year.
80% by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Goal Statement 2: East Rutherford Middle School will increase student proficiency on the NC EOG Test of Math to at least 55% by the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Math 60% by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Goal Statement 3: East Rutherford Middle School will increase student proficiency on the NC EOG Test of Reading to at least 55% by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Reading 60% by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Goal Statement 4: East Rutherford Middle School will improve Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) outcomes by increasing the overall FAM-S score to at least 72% by the end of the 2021-2022 school year. 78% by the end of the 2022-202 school year.

Section 4: Analysis of Organizational and Instructional Effectiveness

Section 4: Analysis of Organizational and Instructional Effectiveness
East Rutherford Middle School Improvement Team conducted an analysis of the school’s instructional and organizational effectiveness using the 2019-2020 NC Teacher Working Conditions survey, the 2020-2021 FAM-S survey, as well as parent and student feedback. The School Improvement Team identified areas of strength, as well as areas for potential improvement. The team also analyzed the Rutherford County School’s strategic plan that identified four transformational strategies to inform this analysis. These strategies include: (1) engaging every student in rigorous 21st-century instruction focused on college and career success, (2) deploying a comprehensive, integrated system of support that is responsive to students’ evolving social, emotional, and developmental needs, (3) ensuring all students’ equitable access to safe, modern, educational facilities and appropriate learning resources and (4) initiate, sustain, and leverage strong external partnerships that support student learning and school success.

In the area of engaging students in rigorous instruction focused on college and career success, East Rutherford Middle School uses a number of programs and activities to engage students in rigorous instruction that prepares them for college and career work. As part of the Rutherford County Middle School rigor program, ERMS provides opportunities for students identified as Academically Intellectually Gifted or who meet high-performance requirements to take advanced level classes in the areas of reading, math, and science. These students follow an advanced course track that provides the opportunity to take high school-level courses in the 8th grade, including English I, Math I, Math II, and Earth & Environmental Science. From sixth grade through eighth grade, these students are challenged using a curriculum that employs above grade level materials and high-level thinking strategies and activities. In addition, a variety of academic support and enhancement programs are offered to all students at ERMS.

To support the focus on college and career success, ERMS offers mentors to all 7th and 8th students to support them in being successful in school and preparing them for college and career. Mentors meet with students three times throughout the school year. ERMS uses the Support our Students Team (SoS), a student assistance team comprised of administration, teachers, guidance counselor, and district social worker, to identify at-risk students and develop plans and strategies to address the needs of these students. We have external partnerships that include local businesses and church sponsorships. This year we have implemented the “Adopt a Hallway Program” where a church adopts a hallway and provides snacks, birthday cards, words of encouragement, etc for the staff on their assigned hallway. Each month our local churches visit our school and volunteer their time to our staff and students if desired. We also have had several businesses support our school providing items for school enhancement such as lawn decor and banners. Community members also speak to students during WIN time at least once every twelve weeks to provide social emotional supports for specific student needs. Our school guidance counselor plans and implements these events for our school. These external partnerships support our student's social, emotional, and academic needs in order to ensure that our students are successful.
ERMS also provides an after-school Homework Help program Tuesday through Thursday from 3:00 - 4:00 PM for students for all students who want teacher assistance on homework. This allows all students to work on homework in a safe environment with free internet access.

Quality instruction alone is not enough to meet all of the needs of students. ERMS staff recognize the need to address the whole child, including the social, emotional, and developmental needs of students in order to ensure their success. To this end, the school provides assistance with meeting the physical needs of students using an Outreach Specialist. This specialist works with the guidance counselor and school administration to identify student needs, whether it be for clothing, food, medical assistance, or even housing assistance. They work in the community to pull resources to meet these needs. While each student is provided free breakfast and lunch during the school day, often students do not have an adequate food supply at home in the evenings or on weekends. To combat this, the school partners with community churches as well RCS Educational Foundation to provide a backpack program that ensures students have food when they are not at school. In order to meet the emotional needs of students, ERMS employs a school counselor who counsels students individually, mediates student conflicts, and conferences with teachers and parents. Additionally, our school counselor also partners with local community members to mentor students or speak to small groups of students during WIN time. The school employs a part-time nurse to address the physical needs of students while on campus. In addition to the school counselor and nurse, ERMS consults with parents and makes referrals for students in need of additional support to local agencies, such as the Department of Social Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, and outside counseling services. Mentoring services are also provided by the McNair Educational Foundation mentoring program. Our mentors are local community members who meet with 7th and 8th-grade students four times a year. The McNair Educational Foundation provides an annual Connect Tour for 8th Grade students to visit local businesses and learn about the community as partners. They also provide a get REAL week and a college knowledge survey to promote 6th-8th grade college and career readiness. Additionally, there is a Reality of Money event that provides 8th-grade students with the opportunity to create a budget, learn how to manage money, and support financial literacy with the resources of our local State Employees Credit Union. Additional clubs and organizations help to build the social skills of students at ERMS. These include: Buddy Club (where students assist in the self-contained Exceptional Children’s classroom), Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Council, Beta Club, Chorus, Band, Quiz Bowl, Robotics, Battle of the Books, and Athletic Teams.
In addition to rigorous instruction and a comprehensive plan to meet students’ needs, ERMS is devoted to ensuring all students’ equitable access to safe, modern, educational facilities and appropriate learning resources. In fact, this has been a strong focus of Rutherford County Schools for many years. ERMS students have benefited greatly from this focus as they have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Going G.L.O.B.A.L. initiative that provided all 6-12th grade students with access to an individual iPad and a robust infrastructure for wireless communication, as well as a Learning Management System (Canvas) and modern digital content for delivery of instruction and resources. ERMS strives to provide access to modern, high-quality instructional resources, including Khan Academy, SchoolNet, Freckle, Prodigy, Read Theory, NewsELA, and CommonLit. The School Improvement Team analyzes various data sources and creates opportunities for educators to learn from others. The school-based instructional technology facilitator and media specialist are also utilized to support teachers as they plan and deliver instruction. Each classroom is also equipped with an interactive Promethean Board for direct instruction, document camera, and Apple TVs. The school also has access to a green screen room and a portable screen where students can create their own digital projects that supports the standards they are learning in the general education classroom. For example, science teachers have used the green screen room to create digital videos on weather and our students have created a morning news program via Zoom using the green screen. With the various types of technology resources inside the classroom, our students have access to learning technical skills and communication skills that will one day employ in college and the workforce. It has also allowed teachers to provide students with access to up-to-date information and interactive and engaging content. The equitable access to technology within the school has allowed all students the opportunity to access programs that foster creativity, global communication, collaboration, skill development, and much more. It has truly revolutionized teaching and learning at East Rutherford Middle School.

In addition to quality teaching and learning tools, a school must provide a safe and inviting environment in order for students to learn. East Rutherford Middle School offers a safe facility for all stakeholders. The entire facility is handicapped-accessible. There are cameras throughout the building and a school resource officer on duty each day to ensure safety. The school has keyless entry points for staff, guided admittance by office staff for visitors, and an alarm system tied to the county sheriff’s office. The entire staff participates in safety training each year, with administration and the school resource officer receiving additional, more specialized training as well. All staff members must complete safety videos each year, including videos on blood-borne pathogens, slips, and falls, and emergency health concerns for students and staff. The school crisis plan is updated yearly and each classroom teacher is provided a copy. ERMS practices monthly fire drills and annual tornado drills, with evacuation routes posted in all classrooms.

While the analysis of East Rutherford Middle School’s instructional and organizational effectiveness revealed many positive strengths of the school, it also identified several limitations or areas for improvement. As is likely the case across many school districts, lack of funding for resources, personnel, and equipment was an apparent limitation in all three areas of analysis. Specifically, the team would like to see more staff development on student engagement, strategies, and quality teaching practices for the CORE classrooms, as well MTSS and social emotional needs of students. The team also identified a need for an additional teacher assistant to meet the needs of the growing population of students in the Exceptional Children’s program, as well as the need for the additional staff to help prepare intervention lessons for MTSS. Additional concerns of the team included support for developing and growing teachers in the profession, as well as methods for creating a sense of student accountability for their own learning and performance.

Section 5: Action Plan

Roster of School Improvement Team Members

Schedule of School Improvement Team Meetings

Supplemental Material

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