GUILFORD COUNTY — Guilford County Schools leaders said they were pleased with the results of a report released Wednesday that’s dubbed the nation’s report card on student performance.
Fourth- and eighth-graders in county school system are performing better than, or as well as, students from large city districts across the nation in reading. Guilford eighth-grade students also posted significant gains in math.
The report wasn’t broken down by student performance at individual schools.
County leaders were spotlighting local student performance in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, report. The results show that in reading, Guilford fourth-graders performed better than their peers in large city schools, and on par level with other public school students nationally. Guilford fourth-grade students scored better than 18 urban districts in reading, school system leaders said.
Guilford eighth-graders performed better than their peers in large city schools and higher than 14 other urban school districts in reading. Only one other urban district outperformed Guilford eighth-graders in reading.
“The NAEP results indicate that our strategic investments in curriculum, instructional materials and supplies and professional development for educators, particularly in English and language arts, are gaining traction in our schools, but we still have significant work to do,” said Superintendent Sharon Contreras.
In math, fourth-graders performed as well as their peers in large city schools but lower than students in public schools nationally. Eighth-graders performed better in math than students from 21 urban districts, and scored on par with students in public schools nationally.
While eighth-grade student math scores decreased 1 point among public schools nationally, Guilford posted a four-point gain from 2017 to 2019 in math – the third-largest increase among urban districts. Overall, Guilford eighth-grade students performed better than 21 other urban school districts tested.
The county mirrored national trends regarding score gaps between student groups. In general, score gaps in Guilford between black and white students are similar or less than gaps in large cities but greater than gaps for North Carolina and public schools nationally.
Similarly, score gaps between Hispanic and white students in Guilford are narrower than gaps posted by their peers in large city districts and public-school students nationally, except in fourth-grade math. Guilford significantly reduced the gap between Hispanic and white students in eighth-grade math from 37 points to 25 points, school system leaders said.
Educators have long been the pillars of change, growth, and excellence in our community, which is the reason we are celebrating Extraordinary Educators in High Point every month.
If you missed last month’s Extraordinary Educator post, you can find it here.
This month, we’re taking it a step beyond those who educate in High Point, and we’re showcasing teachers who have beeneducated in High Point. Meet Coshenda Clark, Wendy Kitley, and Jakima Ledbetter, this month’s Extraordinary Educators who all happen to be alumnae of High Point University. These incredible women took all of what they learned at HPU, as well as their lives as High Point citizens, and decided to put it to good use in their community.
Read below to find out more about each of these educators (and proud Panthers!)
“I would tell my students to always do their best and expect excellence. Don’t get upset when you encounter a teacher who has high expectations. They are just raising the academic, social and behavioral bar so that scholars are not able to slide under. Doing just the minimal isn’t enough. Use your skills to leap over the bar by setting a standard of excellence. Remember you are the brightest stars in the sky so let your light shine so others will follow.” – Coshenda Clark
Coshenda Clark, a second-grade teacher at Johnson Street Global Studies was named Teacher of the Year at her school, as well as a Teacher of the Year finalist for all of Guilford County Schools. One of the first steps on her journey as a High Point educator came soon after she was hired as a teacher’s assistant at Shadybrook Elementary in 1994.
“I was so excited about this new opportunity. Eager to learn all I could from the veterans around me, I looked and listened. This is where I met Rachel Gardner, the first-grade teacher whose class I was assigned,” Coshenda says. “Mrs. Gardner allowed me to work directly with the students. She said I was not there to just make copies and take kids to the playground.”
Coshenda went on to pursue her passion of elementary education with Rachel Gardner’s lead, and it was through this experience that she came to hold the philosophy of education she uses in her classroom to this day.
“It is my belief that every child deserves to have a village that loves and supports them along the path of life,” Coshenda explains. “The most memorable thing Mrs. Gardner taught me is the importance of building relationships. Relationships are instrumental in educating the whole child. I look for ways to connect with the students, their families, and the community.”
She recalls one specific instance when a student tearfully entered her classroom for an Open House. Coshenda pulled him aside and informed the student that he was exactly where he was supposed to be. “I told him I teach the brightest kids in the county,” she says. “We had a great year of learning from each other. Needless to say, when the school year was over he didn’t want to go to third grade.”
Coshenda jokes that she would have been voted “Most Likely to Talk to Strangers” in high school, as her friendly and outgoing nature has been in evidence since her childhood. And it’s through this kind of enthusiasm that she has created a loving, supportive environment for her students, while never compromising on challenging excellence.
“I get excited to walk into the building every day because I teach the most amazing kids in Guilford County,” she says. “Each year I get students who are eager and reluctant to enter my classroom. The joy of watching them excel academically as well as socially and emotionally excites me.”
“Focus on kindness and to see it in others. Kindness is powerful. In my class we have kindness cards. When a student observes an act of kindness they are empowered to make note of it on a kindness card and deposit in the ‘kindness jar.’ Each Friday, we read them aloud and celebrate acts of kindness… because kindness is contagious.” – Wendy Kitley
Wendy Kitley, our second HPU alum, is a third-grade teacher and Teacher of the Year at Southwest Guilford Elementary School. Wendy, like Coshenda, teaches on the basis that challenging your students is what allows them to grow.
“My personal teaching style is action, movement, activity, creativity and fun. I not only work to fulfill the subject objectives of the school and county, but do so with a mindset of excellence, not perfection,” Wendy says. “My motto is from Mary Poppins: ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.’ My job is to find this and show our children, to help them work hard and promote their self-esteem.”
Wendy says that the moments that stand out to her most, as successes, are when she sees “the look” cross one of her students’ faces.
“When a child gets ‘the look’ in their eyes (that every teacher can recognize) you know they’ve ‘got it.’ They are excited and want to keep going,” she explains. “They want to share that knowledge with you for a reassurance, a comfort or acknowledgement they are on the right track.” And it’s in those moments that Wendy can see the depth of impact she is having on her students.
“My greatest impact upon my students’ lives is showing them that learning is fun and how to believe in themselves,” she says. “That it is not ‘I can’t’ but rather, it is ‘I can.’ I live this philosophy every day… I have a huge responsibility that I cherish, am thankful and take very seriously.”
Wendy calls her classroom the land of “I can,” because it’s a place she wants them to feel comfortable and safe to work hard to achieve big goals.
“We highlight success and we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. We clap for each other and celebrate our joys. We speak positively and reward milestones,” she says. “My personal teaching style is part of that holistic person… It’s who I am: a teacher blessed to have the opportunity to live, learn and teach in the land of ‘I can.’”
“I would like my students to know: I am your future. I was you growing up, I went to the same school, lived in the same neighborhoods you live in now. I had a wonderful mom and some great teachers who believed in me. They pushed me to be more than I ever thought possible. They helped me realize that where I started did not determine where I ended up. Once I began to believe in myself, I soared. I want you to know that right now you are at the starting line to your future. I want you to push beyond what is expected of you to reach the highest mountains so you can finish better than ever before. Most importantly, believe that you are someone and you can achieve all your goals.” – Jakima Ledbetter
HPU alum and third-grade teacher at Oak Hill Elementary School, Jakima Ledbetter, was nominated as an Extraordinary Educator by her principal, Dr. Candice Bailey, who said Jakima, “Works tirelessly in the community with unmatched passion for students.”
Jakima is another teacher who sees it as her responsibility to encourage her students to their fullest potential. She remembers one student in particular who proved to challenge her patience with his resistance to learning and growing in her classroom.
“Despite what happened each day, I would always have a smile on my face the next day. I refused to give up on him and he was determined to fail,” Jakima says. “He was sure the day would come when I would excuse him from my room but I never allowed him to take the easy way out. He stayed, and I taught.”
When the time came for the end-of-year tests, this student received one of the highest scores in the class. Jakima says that his score isn’t what stood out to her. What stood out to her was the letter she received from him the next week, which said,
“Thank you for not giving up on me. I didn’t understand why you were so hard on me and now I do. I would never have done this if you hadn’t believed in me…” Jakima says it was at this moment that she realized teaching was her chance to change someone’s life.
“I get excited everyday knowing that I have an opportunity to walk into a classroom of smiling faces,” she says. “I get excited knowing I am the consistent, positive role model in their life: the person who can help them achieve their goals and introduce them to a world of possibilities.”
Jakima says that the High Point school system is first and foremost a family.
“We have students who, despite their circumstances, come to school everyday with a strong desire to learn in order to successfully fulfill their potential. We have parents who have high expectations for their children, who are willing to partner with their child’s teacher to meet all goals set. We have community partners who believe in our vision to give students the tools they need today to be successful for tomorrow.”
JAMESTOWN — About 200 people from across the county recently attended the Guilford County Manufacturing Summit to learn about workforce development and trends in manufacturing.
Co-hosted by Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce and the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, the second of what is planned to be an annual event was held at the Guilford Technical Community College Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
Peter Hans, president of the N.C. Community College System, discussed the importance of community colleges in meeting the demand for a skilled workforce.
North Carolina’s community college system is well-regarded, Hans said. Last year, it attracted 36,000 jobs to the state.
The number of apprenticeships available to North Carolinians has doubled in the two years the system has been in charge of Apprenticeship NC.
The Triad is poised to be a leader in manufacturing, Hans said. Guilford County is consistently ranked as No. 1 in North Carolina and No. 4 in the Southeast for manufacturing.
“This is a special area with hardworking, capable people,” Hans said. “If Greensboro and Guilford County were a stock, I’d be buying it today.”
Guilford County Schools is working to make the area even more attractive to industry through its newly revamped Career and Technical Education program. This fall, the district launched five academies that provide career-specific learning experiences.
Among attendees were about 40 students enrolled in the new Academy of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering, located at the Academy at Smith High School.
Three experts gave brief presentations on trends in manufacturing, followed by question-and-answer sessions with the audience. The experts were Therese Coon, coordinator for the business and industry training team at GTCC; Lizzy Tahsuda, director of Campus Greensboro, and Pete Gresens, director of compensation strategy at Volvo. Other speakers included Lonnie Miller, principal industry consultant at SAS, and Josh Ward, director of regional public affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers.
After the program, attendees were invited to tour the state-of-the-art Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
“If you haven’t seen this space, I really encourage you to do so,” said Patrick Chapin, president and CEO of Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce. “It’s an amazing center here in our own backyard.”
HIGH POINT — The UFO crash site staged outside Allen Jay Preparatory Academy served as a clue something unusual was afoot on Thursday.
Teachers had created themed lessons and decorated classrooms to engage students in science and math activities, novels and other lessons for its annual Rock Your School Day. Parents, University of North Carolina-Greensboro students, teachers from other Guilford County Schools and district officials visited during the day to witness the activities.
School administrators wore costumes related to “The Wizard of Oz,” which served as the week’s leadership lessons.
“We’ve been teaching about leading with your heart, leading with your head and having courage — three pretty important things from the characters of Wizard of Oz,” Principal Kevin Wheat said.
Fifth-grade teachers selected the theme alien invasion. Students who have been reading the book “My Teacher Is an Alien” may have wondered whether it could be real when they saw their grade level hallway quarantined off and set up like Area 51. Science experiments and reading about alien investigations supported the theme while teacher Hannah Bolton dressed as an alien and teacher Latoya Terrell’s classroom contained a decontamination booth with what appeared to be an alien inside.
“Just knowing that school can be very unpredictable and that the teachers like to have fun as well,” said Terrell, who had kept plans for the day a secret from her fifth-grade son. “We bring this fun atmosphere to them to keep them engaged. They had no idea what was happening. The UFO out there was the icing on the cake. ”
Bolton said hearing a comment from a student in her first class of the day made the 12-hour preparation worth it. The boy told her “it’s going to be weird leaving school today, because I never want to say that I don’t want to leave school.”
David Nissen, a fifth-grade teacher who helped build the UFO, said he wanted students to know that school can be fun and still be educational.
“There are so many things we were able to tie together with that UFO and what we’re doing here on fifth-grade hall as a whole,” he said. “It was very much a cross-content area.”
Outdoor wilderness served as the theme for sixth-graders, who were working on ratios while participating in campfire activities including roasting marshmallows.
“In science, we have been learning about how we use energy in everyday life,” said Kaitlyn James, a sixth-grade student. “In math, we are learning about ratios and how you can put together stuff.”
Sixth-grader William Passmore said he enjoyed learning more about thermal and electromagnetic energy.
“We’re not just sitting in a classroom,” he said. “They use chants to get us more engaged in class. Last year was my first year here, and it was way different than my old schools.”
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Depending on what time you walk into the band room at the Welborn Academy of Science and Technology, you could come across what sounds like a jumbled mess of an array of instruments with students adjusting their hands and sometimes feet to hit the perfect note.
But, when the middle school students begin to play in unison this month, you’ll immediately recognize one of the most well-known songs of the season.
“I was looking at Christmas concert songs and one of the kids was like, ‘Well, it’s Halloween,’” said Welborn Academy Band Director Justin Hector.
On the final day of September, Hector handed the students the sheet music for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Five days later, the students had all but mastered about half of the Halloween classic.
“I take their interests and my interests and we tie them together and we come up with what works,” Hector said.
But, if not for a grant from the High Point Community Foundation, none of this would be possible.
“There may be like two kids in there that personally own their instruments,” Hector said, adding that without the grant, more than 50 of his students wouldn’t have instruments. “Other than that, everything came from the grant.”
As the students work to meet the tempo of the song, their principal, Dr. Ashauna Harris, nods her head in approval—and enjoyment.
“It is incredibly important to be able to express yourself, especially in an artistic way,” Harris said.
Harris says the grant was made in the spring and was used towards the end of the last school year and the beginning of the current one.
“We got some violins, some guitars, some recorders, trumpets, trombones, saxophones,” Hector added.
The grant also provides funds for repairing broken instruments.
“As you can imagine middle schoolers can tear them up,” Harris said, laughing.
Harris adds encore, expressive classes such as band are often a motivator for students to show up to school.
“Sometimes that one connection can get them here into the building so that we can teach them and expand their life opportunities,” she said. “They look forward to it so much, that when they get into trouble, we want to make sure that’s the one thing that we take away.”
Upon realizing the students had learned half of “Thriller” in a matter of days, Harris expressed her excitement.
“That makes you think about, what else can we tie into band that ties into math, that ties into history and lots of different classes,” she said.
GEA, in partnership with Guilford County elementary schools, sponsors Community Reader Days throughout the year to bring community leaders into schools to read to an elementary school class. It’s a great opportunity to step inside a classroom and get a firsthand glimpse of the work going on in our schools. More importantly, each time a volunteer makes time to support the work of a school it sends a powerful message to GCS students and teachers—the High Point community cares about education!