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NEWS RELEASES 2007-08 :: JANUARY 23, 2008


Morehead City Primary (Carteret County Schools) and Longview Elementary (Hickory City Schools) were recently recognized as Title I Distinguished Schools for 2008. Morehead City Primary was nominated for Category 1 – Exceptional Student Performance for two or more consecutive years, and Longview Elementary was nominated for Category 2 – Closing the Achievement Gap between groups of students.

"Morehead City Primary and Longview Elementary are to be congratulated for not only improving student performance but also for the citizenship and character of their students," said North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Student Support Services Director Lynn Warren. "As North Carolina Title I Distinguished Schools, they represent the strong efforts of educators to promote student success."

Morehead City Primary, serving a diverse population of about 700 pk-3 students, differentiates instruction through literacy circles, math stations, small groups, and one-on-one tutorials. Title I services are fully integrated throughout the school to support at-risk learners.

The school's instructional cycle is driven by assessment using teacher monitoring, common grade-level assessments and components of the North Carolina annual testing program. Regular classroom teachers, Title I specialists, special educators, and English as a Second Language staff offer instruction in variety of settings designed to best match student needs. Technology is a key resource allowing instruction to be fine tuned to each child's needs.

"I believe our success is due to our intentional focus on the instructional cycle, a cycle that is driven first by the staff's knowledge of the Standard Course of Study, second by ongoing assessment, and third by knowing how to differentiate instruction based on that assessment," said Morehead City Primary Principal Renne Newman.

Over the past 10 years, staff development has focused on curriculum and collaboration. Instructional teams collaborate with a constant focus on the school's mission: to meet the needs of each child by providing motivation, knowledge and basic life skills. Professional learning communities, school teams that meet on a regular basis to learn, plan lessons and problem solve to improve their daily work, allow Morehead City Primary teachers to collaborate in developing thematic units and differentiated learning techniques.

Staff members have been trained in Balanced Literacy, a reading approach utilizing multiple strategies, and Empowering Writers, an innovative approach to teaching narrative, expository (informative), and persuasive writing. Other staff training has been in math, instructional technology, multisensory techniques, and Dimensions of Learning, an instructional framework of essential academic elements. About 100 of the school's 700 students speak English as a second language (ESL) and many of the school's teachers have volunteered to take Spanish classes at the local community college to augment the services of the school's ESL teacher.

Community partnerships are key to Morehead City Primary's success. The United Methodist Church adopted the school and provides reading tutors and student outreach help. Coast Guard personnel stationed in the community tutor struggling learners. Students from a neighboring high school serve as after-school study buddies and mentors. In addition, Morehead City Primary works collaboratively with both Carteret Community College and East Carolina University in hosting pre-service teachers as interns.

The school's philosophy for excellent instruction in a nourishing environment is reflected in its annual "Hurray for Diffendoofer Day." The day, named after the Dr. Seuss book, which served as its inspiration, showcases the school's "celebration approach to teaching and learning," Newman said.

Longview Elementary serves a diverse population of about 380 pk-5 students, 95 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged. The school utilizes a Balanced Literacy program with leveled books, a basal series, guided reading, and a focus on phonics. Remediation is provided throughout the school year, during school and after school, through certified teachers, college students and volunteers.

Students attend a mentoring program, staffed by about 100 volunteers, designed to improve their reading skills. Students attend four days a week to work on vocabulary, read to their mentor, and complete written assignments targeted at identified skills for each child.

"A positive thing about having such a diverse school and such a high population of economically disadvantaged students is that the teachers' mindset is just on helping each student improve," says Principal John Black. "We don't have a specific canned program that we focus on. We take an eclectic approach, focusing on each and every child. That's basically what we do and it seems to work."

In addition to the mentoring reading program, community partnerships include Centro Latino, the United Hmong Association, City of Refuge, churches, and Lenoir-Rhyne College. One key partnership, Project HEART (Hilltop: Education and Resources Together), helps economically disadvantaged students and their families living in Hilltop Apartments get the support they need through various agencies and the school. Agencies represented on the HEART board are Partners for Education, Juvenile Services, Department of Social Services, Longview Police, Cooperative Extension Services, Health Department and Longview Elementary. A variety of family nights held throughout the year at various community sites increase parent involvement and introduce them to community agencies.

Pre-school screening indicates that 85 percent of the school's 5-year-olds are at risk. Led by the kindergarten staff, Longview's Bridge to Tomorrow program gives students a positive start to their education by providing a two-week summer program. The Bridge program, offered at no cost to families, orients students to the school, provides information to parents regarding the education of their children, exposes children to daily routines, and provides time for teachers to get to know some of their students before school starts.

Principal Black cites community outreach to the school and vice versa as key to the school's success. An after-school tutoring program and thriving thrift shop are two huge school successes. Community volunteers operate the school's store, located in a former maintenance building, where clothing, toys and furniture items are donated and sold. This initiative, started only two years ago, brings thousands of dollars into the PTA budget each year. Proceeds go directly to funding students' and teachers' needs including field trips and new playground equipment. Parents get coupons to spend at the store for participation in school events and supporting their students and classrooms.

Other schools receiving recognition at the state level for 2008 for high student performance were: Bethel Elementary (Watauga County Schools), Chocowinity Primary (Beaufort County Schools), District 7 Elementary (Cumberland County Schools), East Elementary (Cleveland County Schools), Laurel Elementary (Madison County Schools), Mel and Zora Rashkis Elementary (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools), Sunny View Elementary (Polk County Schools), and Willow Springs Elementary (Johnston County Schools).

Title I schools recognized for closing the gap at the state level for 2008 were: Cape Fear Elementary (Pender County Schools) and Lyle Creek Elementary (Newton-Conover City Schools).

The Title I Distinguished Schools Recognition Program showcases top schools that are organizing successful academic programs for the state's neediest students. Nominees were pre-selected at the state level with one candidate being selected from each region for each category. For Category 1 (High Student Performance), selection criteria included composite scores for three consecutive years, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status, and a poverty percentage of 40 or greater. For Category 2 (Closing the Achievement Gap), selection criteria was based on schools with the most student subgroups where all subgroups made AYP and showed the most progress in significantly closing the achievement gap.

For more information, please contact the NCDPI Communications division at 919.807.3450.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 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.