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1 year ago

Transition Team 2016-17 Executive Summary

STRENGTHS & CHALLENGES

STRENGTHS & CHALLENGES After meeting with focus groups, making site visits, conducting numerous personal interviews, engaging in deep discussions, reviewing data, consulting outside experts, and examining multiple documents and system policies to gather input, the sub-committee members documented existing strengths across the district. They also discovered significant challenges. These strengths and challenges are described in this executive summary. 2

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT The sub-committee found that the district’s main assets are its educators. At present, many GCS students are achieving individual, educational excellence. Nearly 90 percent of students graduate within four years, and 55 percent are completing courses of high rigor. The district’s longstanding commitment to visual and performing arts, as well as its emphasis on socialemotional learning and character development were noted as positive benefits for students. While sub-committee members found that many students and families are being served well, particularly those enrolled in higher-level courses and enrichment programs, they also noted that there are far too many who are not reaping the same benefits. The gaps among schools performing at proficiency levels on the end-of-grade (EOG) assessments and end-of-course (EOC) assessments are concerning, as are the gaps between various groups of students, which need to be addressed with a sense of urgency. This is particularly true for students of color, students living in poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities – the students who make up the majority of the district’s enrollment. SCHOOL CHOICE, EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE The fact that Guilford County Schools already has in place magnet/choice schools and programming is a major strength, as is its robust array of career and technical (CTE) education courses. More than 5,000 citizens attend the annual GCS Choice Showcase and there is a strong demand for specialized schools and programs with waiting lists to attend many schools. Currently, the district offers magnet options in 25 elementary and middle schools and choice options in 21 high schools. Last school year, 5,893 students took advantage of magnet options and 12,674 GCS students took one of 111 CTE courses organized into 14 career clusters. Of those CTE students, 7,567 took more than one course and 5,316 earned industry recognized credentials. “While CTE participation is high, the district appears to have chosen to provide a breadth of offerings over depth, and as a result, students do not benefit as much as they could from more clearly defined and articulated career pathways.” While CTE participation is high, the district appears to have chosen to provide a breadth of offerings over depth, and as a result, students do not benefit as much as they could from more clearly defined and articulated career pathways from elementary school through college. Some CTE courses appear to teach outdated skills, while others focus on low-skill, low-wage credentials and jobs that will not help students achieve economic independence as adults. As a result, the CTE program is not keeping pace with the demands of the current global economy, much less preparing students adequately for future demands. Both magnet/choice schools and CTE programs lack the resources needed to enable schools and programs to carry out their specialty missions. Facility issues and outdated equipment are constraining growth of popular and jobfocused programming, and academic rigor is lacking in many courses. In its current state, for example, the Weaver Academy facility is inadequate to support both the visual and performing arts and CTE, and may warrant replacement with a new facility that would truly support 21st century learning needs. The lack of current technologies, equipment and instructional materials and supplies also hamper the growth of both programs, despite outstanding efforts by teachers and school leaders. Site-based application and enrollment processes, guidance procedures, access to information, student assignment policies and other behindthe-scenes systems also conspire to constrain and restrict student access to magnet/choice and CTE programs. This has created inequities and further contributed to the district’s longstanding achievement gaps between schools and among different student demographic groups. TALENT DEVELOPMENT Among many strengths found in this area, the sub-committee found that a majority of GCS teachers view their work positively, trust their leaders, feel the performance evaluation process is fair and exhibit a passion for helping students achieve at high levels. Teachers report feeling supported, trusted and respected and an overwhelming majority of respondents feel that teachers are held to high professional standards in the district. 3