TURNAROUND SCHOOLS REGISTERING REMARKABLE GROWTH IN HERTFORD COUNTY
When the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction began working with court-sanctioned turnaround schools in 2005, Hertford County High School was at the top of the list of concerns. But thanks to the intervention of state and private consultants, dynamic leadership and teamwork among faculty and staff, the school has more than doubled the number of its students passing end of course tests over a five-year period and seen a double-digit hike in its graduation rate.
"Our teachers, certainly at the secondary level, understand what we need to do," said Dr. John Fahey, who for the past two years has led the Hertford County Schools as superintendent. Fahey credits the upsurge in student success to teamwork and collaboration among faculty and staff and to intensive support from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
In the turnaround effort, Hertford has received help from school transformation coaches, instructional facilitators and other means. "I cannot believe the amount of support that a school district like Hertford gets from NCDPI," said Fahey.
Herford County High School, situated in Northeastern North Carolina in one of the state's poorest counties, recorded a performance composite of 35.4 percent in the 2006-07 school year. Barely a third of its students were achieving proficiency on end of course tests. That number has since soared to 76.6 percent over a five-year period. The school's graduation rate rose from 68.9 percent to 86.6 percent over the same time period - a 17.7 point gain.
Where Hertford County students had routinely struggled on end-of-course tests, the investment of resources, expertise and hard work began to pay off, classroom by classroom. From the 2009-10 school year through the 2010-2011 school year, the system registered 10 classes where 100 percent of students scored at the proficient level or higher on end-of-course tests. The school system was recognized for its improvement at the State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh on Thursday.
Fahey said success has bred competitiveness among classroom teachers that has yielded additional success. "They just found a way of doing this," said Fahey of the first classroom teachers to hit the 100 percent mark. "When other teachers saw that this could happen, they said, why can't we do this?"
These classrooms, while they may include a few advanced students, are general education classrooms containing high school students with the full-range of ability levels and interests. "I call it pockets of excellence," said Fahey.
The superintendent believes the school system's strong central staff, school-level leadership and reduced teacher turnover creates potential for even more success. "Our turnover rate is down, our graduation rate is up. The achievement level at our secondary schools is all above 70 percent," said Fahey. "Now we need to work on our middle and elementary school levels."
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.