Striving for Success and Supporting a Transient Population in Halifax, North Carolina
Striving for Success and Supporting a Transient Population in Halifax, North Carolina
Halifax County School District, North Carolina
Dr. Eric Cunningham, Superintendent
Dr. Tyrana Battle, Assistant Superintendent
Grades pre-K to 12
90% free and reduced lunch
Covering more than 700 square miles in rural North Carolina near the Virginia border, Halifax County School District serves a predominantly high-poverty and highly transient student population. The district also has the added challenge of educating these students with an equally mobile set of educators frequently cycling through the area. No matter the odds, leaders in Halifax County Schools are still fiercely committed to their district initiative: Strive for Five. The key components of this strategic plan ensure that educators are preparing students to become ready, resilient, respectful, triumphant, and proficient. But, putting this plan into action required partnering with a digital provider who understood the district’s needs.
“We looked at several different programs—evaluating the support, the ease of use, the relationship building available to us,” remarked Dr. Tyrana Battle, assistant superintendent for Halifax County School District. “From the different programs that we looked at during that time, approximately five to six years ago, we decided to capitalize on our Edmentum suite of existing programs.”
The vetting and decision-making process was nothing short of comprehensive. Before selecting Edmentum, district leaders collected stakeholder input from the community and leveraged an internal program evaluation team who reviewed the curriculum, compared it against the district’s scope and sequence, and assessed if support would be available for all intervention tiers and learner abilities.
“With Edmentum, we wanted something that would supplement, not supplant, the instruction in the classroom,” commented Dr. Battle. “Edmentum answered the charge with that. Our superintendent was all about alignment. He wanted to look at the existing structure that we had, and he too concurred that [Edmentum] was the best fit for our district. He decided we would become an Edmentum district, and we've been sticking with Edmentum for a number of years now.”
In a high-poverty, rural area of North Carolina, Halifax County School District is beating the odds to ensure that students achieve a five-star life. Challenged with a transient student and teacher population, district leaders partnered with Edmentum to support foundational literacy, achieve grade-level proficiency, attain individual student growth, and meet graduation goals.
How They Did it:
In Halifax County Schools, K–12 students leverage different Edmentum programs catered to their specific needs and academic goals. With a diverse mix at play, representing almost the entire Edmentum suite, the work to create a lasting implementation starts and ends with effective and ongoing training. Additionally, difficulties attracting and retaining teachers from year to year means that, with each new school year, there’s a fresh batch of educators who require support.
“We take all of our teachers through comprehensive training with the Edmentum suite,” reported Dr. Battle. “We’ve been doing that for four to five years. Our instructional coaches also do an in-depth analysis with a ‘train the trainer’ model. We have champions for Edmentum—teachers who can teach new teachers to become more comfortable with the programs.”
Beginning in the lower grades, students turn to Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress to support foundational reading skills that Dr. Battle refers to as the “fabulous five”: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary.
“We have been working on literacy for the past seven-plus years,” noted Dr. Battle. “That is an ongoing process. We are afforded the opportunity with the Edmentum suite to help our students with that. In our early foundational grades, Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress are utilized to strengthen the basics for our students through these literacy environments.”
Additionally, elementary students use Study Island to practice specific topics and master grade-level standards. After teachers introduce a skill or concept to all students, they break out into small groups for more targeted teaching and learning.
“Using Study Island, we can build on those common skill deficits and go into the program to strengthen students in those particular parts,” stated Dr. Battle. “It can also give students additional practice and reinforcement.”
At the middle school level, students continue their use of Study Island across English language arts, math, and science. During the 2018–19 school year, one middle school piloted Exact Path for personalized support and academic growth. Increased use during the 2019-20 school year meant both middle schools were leveraging the program.
“Our schools need to focus on performance and growth—growth for all students,” said Dr. Battle. “Taking the information from the diagnostic assessments that leads to a learning path for that unique student’s ability—that helps with targeted support and intervention. Our teachers would say, overwhelmingly, Exact Path saves them time.”
In high school, students use Courseware to recover credits, earn initial core credit, and expand learning into CTE and electives. High schools also layer in Edmentum Assessments to identify and address skill gaps both on and below grade level.
“With the Edmentum programs, it allows us the opportunity to work with multifaceted students in the same environment,” remarked Dr. Battle. “You can gauge higher-level students, put them on something more complex, [and] meet students where they are based on their needs. The ability to personalize enables our teachers to have a partner they can turn to.”
We think everyone should have a five-star life. Edmentum is helping us do that because we're tapping into each individual student's gift. We continue to shoot for the best we can do. That's the mentality we want our students to have.
Dr. Tyrana Battle
Meeting the needs of the whole child in an underserved community is no easy task. But, educators at Halifax County Schools are helping students Strive for Five, and they’re seeing growth in the process.
“Not all students are on grade level; however, we’re able to make the case that a student has grown from this time to this time,” noted Dr. Battle. “We can see that in some of the deficits that we’re closing and when we look at benchmark data from beginning to middle and middle to end [of the year]. We can attribute that to Edmentum.”
Growth at the micro level is a powerful marker of the changes occurring within the district, but zoom out, and it is made clear that these are the signs of sustained improvement.
“Halifax County Schools is charting a new course to impact the needs of every child in the district,” said Dr. Eric Cunningham, superintendent for Halifax County School District. “Over the past four years, we have worked diligently on rebranding the district and we are now seeing the fruits of our labor; the needle is moving. As a lighthouse district, we are constantly exploring ways to provide our students with multiple opportunities for success and Edmentum is playing a very pivotal role in that process.”
Over the past four years, we have worked diligently on rebranding the district and we are now seeing the fruits of our labor; the needle is moving. As a lighthouse district, we are constantly exploring ways to provide our students with multiple opportunities for success and Edmentum is playing a very pivotal role in that process.
Dr. Eric Cunningham
In Halifax County Schools, everything comes back to that Strive for Five initiative and shaping students who are successful citizens in their classroom community and beyond.
“We think everyone should have a five-star life,” said Dr. Battle. “Edmentum is helping us do that because we're tapping into each individual student's gift. We continue to shoot for the best we can do. That's the mentality we want our students to have.”
Dr. Battle is also quick to add that Strive for Five extends far beyond any academic setting: “We talk about Strive for Five in the academic setting, but that information can be transposed to other settings as well. That's what we try to emulate. We want our students to be college ready [and] make sure that they're career ready. You want a skill or trade that you can hang your hat on—this is what a five-star life looks like.”