News: CJ Exclusives

List of schools eligible for Innovative School District down to six

The list of schools eligible for the Innovative School District program just got a little smaller. Six schools remain as officials led by ISD Superintendent Eric Hall narrowed the list of schools eligible for the new program starting in the 2018-19 school year.

Originally called the Achievement School District, the ISD aims to place low-performing elementary schools under charter or education management organizations for a five-year period. The goal is to find innovative means of improving student achievement and growth in some of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

The following schools made the cut:

  • Glenn Elementary (Durham Public Schools)
  • Lakewood Elementary (Durham Public Schools)
  • Williford Elementary (Nash-Rocky Mount Schools)
  • Willis Hare Elementary (Northampton County Schools)
  • R.B. Dean Elementary (Robeson County Schools)
  • Southside Ashpole Elementary (Robeson County Schools)

ISD officials used certain criteria to narrow down the list from 48 schools to six. Schools receiving funding through the federal School Improvement Grants were excluded from the list, as were schools located in districts where less than 35 percent of its schools were designated low performing.

All schools with a “D” performance rating were removed, along with “F” schools that demonstrated growth in the 2016-17 school year. Schools that met growth in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school year and earned a “D” for both years also were removed.

Hall will recommend at least two schools to the State Board of Education at the November board meeting, and next year he will recommend three more. In the meantime, ISD will organize school visits and conduct a comprehensive assessment for each school to further narrow the list.

“Our approach to narrowing this list of schools is entirely data-driven, and we’re confident we have the right list of schools for this final phase of evaluation,” Hall said in a press release. “Now is the point where we marry the data with local insights from the people who are with the students day-in and day-out to develop the best possible recommendations for the State Board of Education to consider.”

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education sent a letter asking Hall to exclude their schools from the program, saying the board is taking steps to improve the schools. Two Durham public schools made the list of six.

“It is hard to envision that the Innovative School District would implement strategies radically different from the ones we will adopt,” Mike Lee, the DPS Board of Education chairman, said in the letter. “The only difference would be the loss of local control, which Durham county residents and their representatives would not support.”

Hall repeatedly has emphasized that the program is not a takeover but a partnership between local school districts and the ISD.

“We truly view this as a partnership and look forward to thoughtful discussions and collaboration with education leaders and community members about this new and innovative approach,” Hall said.