S.P. Morton downgraded as priority school

Published 10:56 am Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In light of state findings, what steps should be taken regarding the leadership of Franklin City Schools?

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FRANKLIN—S.P. Morton Elementary School joins J.P. King Middle School as two of the 37 low-performing schools across Virginia receiving priority status for the 2013-2014 school year. A priority school is in the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools.

A priority school must engage with a turnaround partner to help design and implement school reform models that meet state and federal requirements.

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle said the next steps at S.P. Morton would be to secure an external lead turnaround partner to assist in attaining full accreditation, and submitting a School Improvement Grant application with the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of School Improvement. The grant would secure funding to support student achievement and teacher capacity.

Internally, Belle said, the identification of students who need additional support has been enhanced along with the process for determining the types of intervention these students would need in order to grow academically. Provision for systemic monitoring of what is taught and how it is delivered to students have also been added.

“S.P. Morton now has an additional reading specialist this year,” she said. “The addition of another reading specialist has allowed the principal to streamline the focus of each reading specialist.”

One will focus on pre-kindergarten to second grade, while the other will focus on grades 3-5.

This year, S.P. Morton has also added a math specialist, and has adopted the iReady Mathematics intervention program to strengthen student performance in math.

J.P. King Middle School is in its second year as a priority school, with EdisonLearning being its turnaround partner. Once becoming a state priority school, the school has to be in the program for a minimum of two years.

“We are pleased with the work of EdisonLearning Inc., who is contracted to work with J. P. King Jr. Middle School,” Belle said. “Due to the size of the division and to support vertical articulation between the elementary and middle school, EdisonLearning Inc. will be strongly considered as the contractor for S.P. Morton Elementary School.”

This summer, Belle said, the curriculum has been revised to reflect the importance of essential understandings, knowledge and questions, which is part of the Virginia Department of Education Standards of Learning curriculum framework. Interactive Achievement, which is a company that creates programs to help gauge student assessment, will be used to create baseline and benchmark assessments that are more rigorous and aligned to the Virginia Department of Education essential skills, she said.

For teachers, the PD360 Professional Development system will be online this year so that people can receive timely feedback with regard to information obtained during classroom observations.

The division-level instructional team will also be conducting grand rounds in the schools, where they visit every 4.5 weeks to discuss with administrators the progress and collaborate to recognize and address deficiencies. They also hope to recognize successes so that they can be duplicated.

The division is implementing Extended Day Programs at each designated school to decrease the number of out of school suspensions, so as to improve student attendance.

S.P. Morton also hired a dean of students, which will enable the principal and assistant principal increased time in the classrooms.

The designations are based on student achievement and outcomes during 2012-2013.

S.P. Morton Principal Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins could not be reached for comment.