In North Carolina, Rural Schools Come Together to Keep More Students on Track for Graduation

News SREB News Release

Teachers and leaders from Bladen, Beaufort and Stanly county school districts in North Carolina convened in Raleigh this week to delve into systemic challenges that students, teachers and leaders face in rural communities. The goal: increase the number of middle grade and high school students who are on track for graduation, as measured by indicators such as state assessments, grade point average and passing grades in core classes.

Bladen, Beaufort and Stanly counties were chosen because of their commitment to building equity for all students and their willingness to innovate with other schools. In partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board, the districts formed a networked improvement community, which will use improvement science to deploy rapid tests of solutions to education problems shared across the districts. The network is funded by a grant to SREB from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bladen, Beaufort and Stanly counties were chosen for their commitment to equity for all students and their willingness to innovate with other schools.

Over the next two years, the educators will collaborate to develop, revise and continuously fine-tune tools, processes, work roles and relationships to improve education for each student, with a special focus on underserved minority and low-income students. The districts will convene regularly around common challenges, directing their collective knowledge toward sustainable school improvement and student success.

At the kickoff meeting this week, the educators examined learning opportunities within their districts and identified what changes could make the greatest impact on schools and classrooms. SREB will support the districts in making those changes through professional development, coaching, team building and data analysis.

“Bladen County Schools is excited to partner with other rural school districts, in collaboration with SREB, to identify and address common education goals and roadblocks to student success,” said Jason B. Atkinson, the district’s curriculum and instruction director.

We can accomplish together more than we could alone.

“One of our core strategic plan goals is to raise the four-year cohort graduation rate, and this program will assist in this objective,” said Derek Busch, Stanly County Schools director of student information.

“BCS is honored to participate in a network providing a common focus for school improvement while facilitating collaboration across rural North Carolina school districts,” said Andrea Lilley, Beaufort County Schools chief academic officer. “We appreciate SREB providing research-based strategies for implementation within our schools.”

“Finding the solutions that will work for unique rural schools is important — there’s no one size fits all,” said SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt. “But we can accomplish together more than we could alone, and SREB is honored to help these three districts focus their considerable expertise on common challenges.”

Media contact: Beth Day, (404) 879-5544