The recent decision by State Board of Education to name the operator for Southside Ashepole School is a clear example of what it means to innovate on behalf of low-performing students in North Carolina. A review of past End of Grade trends for Robeson County confirms that status quo practices and procedures must be replaced with leadership renewal, instructional vibrancy, and robustly-engaged community partners. Continuing down the same path is not a pro-student direction. We owe them something better.
In many respects, the changes that the ISD model has and will continue to generate make the reform seem as systemic as ending segregated schools more than four decades ago. I am referring to the layers of influence that must come to bear now and in years ahead: human will, financial resources, leadership and power, and changes in attitude and beliefs. After all, the goal of reversing persistent school failure depends on many moving parts.
From building grassroots support in the Rowland community to the high-level work of policy making, the ISD activities led by Dr. Eric Hall, the ISD superintendent, represent a new frontier in tackling school failure in North Carolina. Those who work on this frontier must be intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally equipped to work hard, accept criticism, learn new ways of teaching, frequently communicate with parents and families, master a new curriculum, and know how to innovate.