Former Missionary Takes on a New Mission at Mocksville Elementary School

By Jeanna B. White

When Rachel Somerville found out she had been placed at Mocksville Elementary for her student teaching she was “over the moon excited.” That sentiment hasn’t changed as she has transitioned into a full-time first grade teacher at MES this semester.

“The teachers at Mocksville have just been so supportive, so warm and welcoming. Everyone has come up and offered me help or provided help when I didn’t even know I needed it,” Somerville said with a smile. “They have made me feel like a part of the family.

Somerville has always known she wanted to work with kids and has worked hard to make it happen.

“Both of my parents were teachers before becoming missionaries, I had always taught Sunday School in Mexico, and my parents started a Christian camp which involved a lot of working with kids. I just knew that working with kids was going to be my passion,” she said.

Born in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, Somerville moved to Mexico at the age of five, along with her seven siblings, when her parents became missionaries.

“We all moved to Mexico in a 12-passenger van with a giant Newfoundland dog. It was like Cheaper by the Dozen all over again,” she said, laughing.

After being homeschooled for all but one year of school, Somerville returned to North Carolina when she was almost 17 to finish high school, attend college, and get her teaching degree. She dual-enrolled at Isothermal Community College (ICC) in Rutherfordton where her older brother and sister were also students.

While she was at ICC, Somerville and her dad researched the best education colleges in North Carolina, and Appalachian State University appeared first on the list.

“We did a little bit of research on it, and I heard that it started as a teaching college and just had the best reputation in North Carolina, so I applied there and at no others,” she said. “My only plan was to go to App State. I didn’t know anybody there and hadn’t even taken a tour, but I just knew that I wanted the ‘best of the best’.”

Her desire to find the best continued as she evaluated student teaching options.

ASU/Mebane Foundation & Davie County Schools – Collaboration Continues to Pay Dividends
“They gave us a list of places we could go, and one of them was Davie County. I had never heard of Davie County, but when they mentioned that Davie County offered free housing for their student teachers and that they interviewed their prospective student teachers, I knew that that was where I wanted to be. …It set a really good tone for me of excellence and expecting excellence.  Davie County became my number one choice. Davie County School’s good reputation, focus on technology, Kagan activities, and DavieLEADS initiatives were added positives,” she said.

Davie County Schools began a close relationship with ASU in 2008 when the Mebane Foundation collaborated with the school system and Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education to create the Mebane Masters program. This first-of-its-kind academic degree program allowed 15 Davie County teachers to remain in their Davie County classrooms while pursuing their Master of Arts Degrees in Instructional Technology. These teachers became their school’s primary resource for questions about the best and most pragmatic ways to maximize technology’s benefit in the classroom.

A student-teacher component became a crucial piece of the Mebane Masters Program. Over five semesters in 2½ years, 60 Appalachian student teachers were housed in Davie County, spending their 15-week semester paired with one of the 15 master teachers. The technology-rich environment created an intensive learning environment for Davie students, student teachers, and master teachers. Although the Mebane Masters Program ended, the Davie County School system continues to maintain two condos to attract the best and brightest student teachers.

“We have more student teachers from ASU than from any other college/university, and they are prioritized for housing because of our partnership with ASU,” said Jinda Haynes, assistant superintendent for academic services. “However, we welcome student teachers from other places. (The limitation is usually how far the college supervisor is willing to travel for visits unless they have someone who lives in the area.)  Since I’ve been helping recruit and place student teachers the last few years, we’ve had student teachers from Salem, Catawba, UNC-Charlotte, Lees McRae, ECU, UNCG, Liberty, WCU, and NC A&T, in addition to the majority from ASU.”

“We want to be involved in helping train student teachers!  Student teaching is a critical part of their education and preparation to step into their own classroom. In addition, hosting student teachers is one way we recruit high-quality staff since some student teachers are hired and stay with us. It’s a win-win!” she added.

Somerville met with Haynes during her application interview. “She told me that she had the perfect teacher for me,” Somerville said. “That was just so cool too that they can tell so much about you through that interview. She matched me with Madison Wyatt in third grade, and it was perfect. I had heard horror stories of students getting stuck with really difficult teachers who only used them to make copies, but Madison and I really bonded. We thought the same way, and it made all of the difference.”

“My student teaching was the best experience ever and the free housing made so much difference. It really set the standard. They (DCS) provided that for me so naturally I really wanted to do my best to make them proud. Coming home to other student teachers and being able to talk about our assignments or take a deep breath together on the hard days and celebrate the good days was amazing. Student teaching is a crazy semester, your brain has to make the jump from student to teacher, and that condo really provides a professional atmosphere of ‘I’m here to work.’”

Impressed with Somerville’s work, Jennifer Swofford, principal of MES, approached her after a meeting and informed her that a spring semester position was opening up and asked if she would be interested.

“Having a student teacher in our building is always exciting because of the energy and thoughtfulness they bring to the table,” said Swofford. “Rachel immediately immersed herself in the culture of Mocksville Elementary and proved herself very quickly to be a natural at positively connecting with students. When we had the opportunity to hire her early this year, it felt like the stars aligned in having Rachel join us as a new official staff member.”

Somerville responded to Swofford’s offer with a resounding “yes”!

“I told her of course! I was all in, I wanted to be here,” Somerville said with a grin. “It’s every student teacher’s dream to stay at the school where they student taught because they know the staff and know the school. First-year teaching is scary beyond belief, so having that familiarity and support group is the best thing I could have imagined! My only concern was housing because I’m not from Davie County and I didn’t know about apartments or if someone could lease to me this quickly or for how long.”

Somerville decided that concern wasn’t going to deter her from staying and she began to think creatively. “I wondered if it was possible to stay in the condo and mentor the new student teachers since I had just gone through the process myself. I already knew the challenges and knew that I could provide on-site support.”

Determined to keep Somerville in Davie County, Swofford and Haynes had considered the same thing. Fortunately, there was room this semester for Somerville to stay in the condo and it has benefitted all involved.

“The concept of having a first-year teacher as a “condo mom” was an interesting concept to consider as far as another layer of support, connection, and collaboration,” Haynes said. “I recently met with the student teachers, and they expressed how helpful it is to have Rachel living with them.  She is able to provide perspective, advice, and support since she just recently completed her student teaching. We don’t always have room for another roommate, but it’s working great this semester!”

“It’s wonderful to know that our investment in the Mebane Masters Program continues to pay dividends to this day in ways that no one could have anticipated, which is often the case with the best collaborative efforts,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation.

Somerville “Called” to Teach!  
“Rachel is eager to make a difference for our kids, and I believe teaching is truly her calling,” Swofford said. “She is exactly where she is supposed to be, and we are lucky to have her.”

Somerville is grateful for the opportunities she has received in Davie County.

“I just want to say thank you (to the Mebane Foundation and Davie County Schools)!  I know that I’m blessed,” Somerville said. “I feel blessed every day to wake up in the condo and to get to come to an awesome school. The teachers here have really poured into me, and I hope one day to be able to do the same for others. I know that I was placed here for a reason, and I’m thankful for that.”

Camp Pathfinder — Turning Struggling Readers into Enthusiastic Learners

02

by Jeanna White

The room is quiet. Heads bowed, faces scrunched in concentration, eight students are busily working — some are reading, some are writing, some are spelling, but all are learning through Camp Pathfinder.

Hosted by the Triad Academy at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC, Camp Pathfinder was created to serve rising first through fifth grade students with dyslexia and other language-based learning difficulties. Each student receives one-on-one instruction from teachers trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach which is famed for its ability to help dyslexics and other struggling readers.

In addition to the hour a day of individualized reading and literacy instruction, attendees of the 5-week program participate in study hall and a STEAM activity. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) based activities include nature investigations, pop bottle rocketry, and robotics.

According to Sam Merrick, Camp Pathfinder’s director and a teacher at Triad Academy, the program uses a “whole child” perspective to address learning by providing much more than remediation.

01“Offering a variety of activities allows kids to exercise their talents. We want to give them the opportunity to practice anything that they take pride in,” he said. ”These fun activities are like the sugar coating to the educational process.”

Merrick tells parents that the camp is like an inoculation. “You can’t cure dyslexia in five weeks, but this camp provides a start.”

More than sixty percent of the campers also stay for the camp’s afternoon session, which is designed to build self-confidence through field trips, outdoor discovery, arts and crafts, fun games, and sports.

Emery, a rising third-grader at Poplar Spring Elementary, loves the weekly trips to places like the pool and trampoline park, but she also loves going to tutoring and doing her work during study hall.

“I’m learning to sound out the hard words,” she said, a huge grin on her face. “I know I’m going to be able to read harder books when I go back to school.”

Unfortunately, highly successful, individualized training like this is extremely expensive and not widely available.

03Carrie Malloy, director of Triad Academy, said the school has to regularly turn down families who could benefit from Triad’s program but cannot afford the school’s annual tuition.

Transformative Impact
Camp Pathfinder was established last summer, through a $50,000 grant from the Mebane Charitable Foundation, to help reach some of these families, train public school teachers in Orton-Gillingham so that more students can benefit from its life-changing approach, and to create a model that will have a transformative impact on how other organizations and educational institutions teach children with language-based learning differences.

Through the grant, ten area public school teachers received 70 hours of intensive Orton-Gillingham training free of charge in exchange for working with the 20 public school students enrolled in the camp. Teaching at the camp provided the teachers with the opportunity to practice their new skills under the supervision of the Academy’s Orton-Gillingham certified teachers before returning to their own schools and students.

The teachers were surveyed about their experience at the end of the summer, and one Forsyth County teacher wrote, “This experience has taught me so much. The information I learned is invaluable. I can’t wait to start back to school and use it to help my precious, struggling students. I am forever grateful.”

05Substantial Improvement Achieved
Every camper received a pre- and post- camp Gallistel-Ellis Test of Coding Skills assessment which measures whether the student can give the sounds for the various letters and clusters of letters and how well the student can recognize and spell words made up of these sounds. At the conclusion of camp, parents were supplied with testing results, a tutor summary, and a list of recommendations. In just five weeks, campers saw an average of a 15% improvement in reading and 34% improvement in spelling.

David, a rising third-grader at the Downtown School and repeat camper, represents one of Camp Pathfinder’s many success stories.

“When I first went to camp, I was very nervous. I didn’t know anyone and I had no idea how camp worked,” he said. “Once I got to know everybody, I started liking camp and it helped me a lot.”

“I have dyslexia. I was one of the lowest readers in my class and could only read easy chapter books. Now I can read humongous chapter books like Harry Potter” David added, a proud smile on his face. “If you have dyslexia, this is the perfect camp for you.”

On an end of camp survey, one appreciative parent commented, “We received [Camper’s] test scores & camp narrative. Wow! We were so impressed with the work he, the teachers, & you accomplished through this camp! Thanks again for an awesome camp experience this year!”

Due to the positive test results as well as the enthusiastic response from both students and teachers, the Mebane Foundation approved an additional $50,000 grant this year, which, combined with other funding, helped to expand the camp to serve 50 students and to train an additional ten public school teachers.

Thanks to “word of mouth” recommendations from last year’s teachers, ads, and contacts with area schools, both the student and teacher slots were filled and a waiting list formed.

Of this year’s 50 campers, 45 are public school students from Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, Stokes, and Yadkinville Counties. About one third are returning for their second year.

The 25 tutors needed to provide the camp’s one-on-one instruction come from Davie, Forsyth, Guilford and Stokes Counties as well Thomasville City Schools, and include reading specialists, EC teachers, and elementary school teachers. Ten of the public school teachers are newly trained in Orton-Gillingham and three have returned to camp because they believe in what is being accomplished and to further hone their skills.

Despite their different backgrounds, these teachers have one thing in common– a passion for their students.

“It’s hard to give up your summer, but with what this training is equipping me to do for my kids, it’s worth it,” said Lori Jensen, a teacher at Meadowlark Elementary who is tutoring at the camp for the second year. She used the training in her classroom last year and saw her students improve academically and gain confidence. This fall she will apply these skills to her new position with NC Virtual Schools.

Renee Bowman, the reading specialist from Poplar Springs Elementary in Stokes County, learned about the program from the parent of one of her students who would be attending. On the first day, she texted her principal and told him that everyone needed the training. She hopes that more teachers from Stokes County will be able to participate in the program next year.

“This is all about meeting kids right where they are,” Bowman said.

Private and Charter School Literacy Initiatives

Isaiah

by Jeanna White

In its ongoing effort to find the best means to help all students learn to read and succeed by the third grade, the Foundation continues to make investments in partnerships with schools other than traditional public schools and systems. Partnerships with private and charter schools have seen tremendous success in student growth and have provided valuable information toward developing literacy best practices.

For example, in 2015, the Foundation partially funded a private-public school partnership between Triad Academy at Summit School with teachers and students from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina. Camp Pathfinder, a five-week session held on the Summit School campus, brought together ten public school teachers trained in the Orton-Gillingham reading methodology with thirty struggling students who otherwise would not have been afforded the opportunity to attend such a beneficial camp on a beautiful private school campus. Results from the camp were so positive that the Foundation agreed to fund $50,000 for an expanded camp for ten new teachers and fifty students during the summer of 2016. A private donor also pledged an additional $60,000 in support of the 2016 camp.

Over the past five years, the Foundation has also invested more than $125,000 with Brookstone Schools, a small private school serving some of the most needy school children from the downtown Charlotte, North Carolina area. Every year it’s “Straight to the Top” summer learning and enrichment camp has grown and produced great results. In 2016 it will serve approximately 120 children from its school enrollment as well as students from surrounding neighborhoods. The strong success of Brookstone has attracted many funding partners. In fact, in the spring of 2016,  the Leon Levine Foundation issued a $150,000 challenge grant to school supporters so that Brookstone might add a second kindergarten class in the fall. The Mebane Foundation pledged an additional $20,000 to help with the challenge portion of that grant.

Most recently,  the Foundation committed $25,000 to Horizons National; an award-winning, tuition-free, summer academic program serving low-income, public school students on the campuses of independent schools, colleges, and universities across the country. The Horizons partnership with The Oakwood School in Greenville, North Carolina will be the first of its kind in the state. The Foundation hopes to learn from this private school outreach model used by Horizons National, that has shown great success and promise elsewhere in the country.

The documents linked below provide additional details and background information on these important initiatives:

STEM Initiatives: Innovative 21st Century Learning

Sixty-five percent of today’s jobs require Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math skills, and 16 of the 30 fastest-growing careers demand substantial math and science education. And this is only the beginning. A STEM education will be essential in the work world of today’s children.

The Mebane Foundation believes that it must actively engage students in STEM-related academics and enrichment experiences in order to nurture interest, enthusiasm, and pursuit of STEM careers. We believe that optimum 21st century STEM learning occurs for all students only when optimum 21st century STEM teaching occurs in all classrooms. We believe that we have a profound responsibility to ensure learning for all students by creating, implementing, and supporting innovative and top-quality professional development for all teachers, centering upon inquiry-based methodologies, various technologies for student engagement, integration of STEM curricula across subjects, and the use of community STEM professionals as compelling classroom resources.

In 2012, Moore County Schools received a $2,000,000 + three-year commitment/partnership to launch an innovative professional development model for K-12 teachers known as “STEM Infusion”

Our innovative STEM Infusion program, featuring intensive use of computer technology under the supervision of highly trained teachers committed to this education model, offers a marked increase in the percentage of students from all demographic groups successfully completing challenging STEM courses and prepared to pursue post-secondary STEM careers.

Mebane Foundation has a rich history of employing and investing in these fundamental STEM principles to design and implement projects which boost student achievement by creating 21st century classroom learning environments taught by top-notch teachers.

The Foundation’s focus on creating 21st century learning environments began in 2004 with the Mebane Technology Challenge in Davie County, NC. The Challenge stated that if the county could raise $1.5 million from individuals, companies and civic groups, then the Foundation would contribute $750,000 over a three-year period to add the best educational technology to classrooms in every school across the county.

The challenge was met, and and the funds provided SMART Boards, projectors and laptop computers for all but 80 of the school system’s 500 classrooms, plus pre-K classrooms in five of the six elementary schools.

As a result, students were visually stimulated and engaged in learning as never before, and teachers, many who were resistant to integrating computers into their lessons, became eager to learn more computer/SMART Board applications.

Finally, having technology – and enthusiasm for it – in all classrooms laid the foundation for the innovative professional-development models to come through Foundation initiatives: Mebane Masters and Stem Infusion.

Research shows that the most influential variable in student learning in the classroom is the level of expertise and skill of the teacher. Having all of the technology in the world is useless unless you are trained to use it.

Seeking to enhance learning through a far more effective use of technology, the Mebane Foundation collaborated with Davie County Schools and Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education in 2008 to create a 30 month, first-of-its-kind, academic degree program for 15 Davie County teachers.

These teachers remained in their Davie County classrooms while pursuing their Master of Arts Degrees in Instructional Technology. The training prepared them to serve as their school’s primary resource for questions about the best and most practical ways to maximize technology’s benefit in the classroom. It was the Foundation’s first look at real-time, teacher-driven, in-house professional development.

The student-teacher component became another crucial piece of the Mebane Masters Program. Over five semesters in 2½ years, 60 Appalachian State University student teachers were housed in Davie County, spending their 15-week semester paired with one of the 15 master teachers. This technology-rich environment paired with an innovative spirit created an exciting learning environment for Davie students, student teachers, and master teachers alike.

Most of these master teachers remain in Davie County and continue to embrace their professional-development roles. Also, many of the student teachers who rotated through the program decided to teach in the Davie County Schools.

The Mebane Masters Program not only substantially improved education for students in every classroom at every grade level throughout Davie County Schools, but it also:

  • Created a powerful, new model for teacher education and professional development.
  • Made it much easier for Davie County Schools to recruit and retain the best teachers.
  • Laid the groundwork for STEM Infusion.

Expanding upon the the success of the Mebane Masters program, STEM Infusion facilitated further STEM innovation through the creation of three, 5-member traveling teaching teams that provided training and assistance wherever needed.. Each STEM team was composed of a highly skilled and experienced teacher, a beginning teacher, and three student teachers. These elementary, middle, and high-school teams assisted classroom teachers with creating and implementing engaging STEM lesson plans using technology. In addition, a new website was established by the STEM team to share resources, including lesson plans.

End-of-grade results showed improvement in student achievement growth in classrooms where teachers adopted the STEM Infusion approach to teaching and learning.

Mebane Masters Program

Initiated through its $750,000 challenge grant and a vision for enhanced learning through far more effective use of technology, the Mebane Foundation collaborated with Davie County Schools and Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education to create a first-of-its-kind academic degree for 15 Davie County teachers and a profoundly innovative and extravagantly successful program of interactive technology they helped implement in 100 percent of the school system’s classrooms.

mebane-mastersThe program, Mebane Masters, has changed the face of education in Davie County, grades K-12, since it was launched in 2008. Providing a holistic method of teaching to technology savvy students, Mebane Masters has earned overwhelmingly positive responses from students, teachers, administrators and community.

The core of the program was a 30-month partnership between Davie County Schools and the ASU Reich College of Education. The 15 teachers in the program remained in their Davie County classrooms while pursuing their Master of Arts Degrees in Instructional Technology. They acted as the school’s primary resource for their peers when it came to questions about the best and most pragmatic ways to maximize technology’s benefit in the classroom. It was our first look at real-time, teacher-driven, in-house professional development.

mebane-masters2The student-teacher component became another crucial piece of the Mebane Masters Program. Over five semesters in 2½ years, 60 Appalachian student teachers were housed in Davie County, spending their 15-week semester paired with one of the 15 master teachers. The technology-rich environment laced with a palpable innovative spirit created an intensive learning environment for Davie students, student teachers and master teachers.

Most of these master teachers remain in Davie County and embrace their professional-development roles. Also, many of the student teachers who rotated through the program have decided to teach in the Davie County Schools.

In summary, the Mebane Masters Program…

  • Substantially improved education for students in every classroom at every grade level throughout Davie County Schools;
  • Created a powerful, new model for teacher education and professional development;
  • Made it much easier for Davie County Schools to recruit and retain the best teachers;
  • Laid the groundwork for STEM Infusion.

It is our hope that Mebane Masters Program has created a model for teaching, learning and professional development that can reshape the educational landscape and address many of the issues facing public education in our state and nation.

Hill Early Literacy Program (HELP)

As a result of Allen Mebane’s vision to have all students in Davie County reading by age 8, the Mebane Foundation and The Hill Center began a four-year $750,000 partnership in 2003 to develop and implement a comprehensive early literacy and reading program for Davie County Schools, located in Mocksville North Carolina.

Research indicates that children must learn specific skills and abilities during critical developmental years, ages 3 to 5, to allow them to become successful future readers. More specifically, children must develop critical phonological awareness skills, awareness of letter/sound relationships, print awareness, and vocabulary skills.

hill

Committed to helping young children master these skills, the Mebane Foundation funded the Hill Center in Durham, NC, to develop a research-based, best-practices early-literacy program for childcare teachers serving 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in pre-school.

The Hill Center experts spent approximately 2 years developing the Hill Early Literacy Program (HELP). This comprehensive curriculum involves 36 weekly scripted lessons for 3-year-olds developed the first year and 36 weekly scripted lessons for 4-year-olds developed the second year. Each lesson includes the basic emergent literacy building blocks of oral language, phonological awareness, and alphabet principles.

The Hill Early Literacy Program (HELP) was launched in 2005. It provided 60 childcare teachers from 11 childcare centers in Davie County initial training in innovative methodologies that had already been tested and proven by Hill Center professionals. Hill Center master teachers then made regular follow-up visits to the Davie County childcare centers for additional training, guidance and support. We were all very pleased with early results, and our enthusiasm was underscored by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in 2007 (RTI Report) when the perceived effectiveness of the new methods was thoroughly documented.

Overall, the study found that:

  • Preschool teachers who participated in the HELP preschool teacher training significantly increased their knowledge of how to teach children early literacy skills.
  • Preschool students whose teachers participated in the HELP training “significantly increased their skills” in 1) phonological awareness, 2) print knowledge, 3) definitional vocabulary and 4) receptive vocabulary. Many of these preschool students “increased their skills in print knowledge faster than what was expected of average children their age.”

Mebane Technology Challenge

Launched in 2004, the Mebane Technology Challenge was not only delivered cutting-edge technology to every classroom in Davie County Schools, but it also brought the community together to achieve a vitally important common goal – improving education for thousands of children throughout the county while at the same time ensuring the effort would be sustained through ongoing support.

tech-challengeIn 2004, the Mebane Foundation issued a challenge: If the county could raise $1.5 million from individuals, companies and civic groups, then the Foundation would contribute $750,000 over a three-year period to add the best educational technology to classrooms in every school across the county.

By the fall of 2007, without any government/taxpayer funding, the community had raised more than $1.5 million and Mebane Foundation had completed its match. Those funds provided teachers in all but 80 of the school system’s 500 classrooms had SMART Board technology, projectors and laptop computers… plus pre-K classrooms in five of the six elementary schools.

Seeing the excitement among students and teachers as well as the enhanced educational environments created by the technology, Davie County Commissioners voted unanimously to spend $1 million to pay for the remaining SMART Boards, six new audio-visual (distant learning) classrooms, a technology rich professional-development hub for training teachers and the last of the six pre-K, technology-enhanced classrooms.

tech-challenge2By then technology was transforming education for students in every classroom in every school. Perhaps the most significant result of the across-the-board SMART Board infusion was the well-documented interactive learning that had taken root across Davie County – and the elimination of virtually all disciplinary problems in classrooms. The children were visually stimulated and engaged in learning as never before.

Another positive result was that teachers, many who had resisted integrating computers into their lessons, were buying into the new pedagogy and becoming eager to learn more computer/SMART Board applications.

Finally, having technology – and enthusiasm for it – in all classrooms laid the foundation for the innovative professional-development models to come through Foundation initiatives: MEBANE MASTERS and STEM INFUSION.

STEM Infusion

Sixty-five percent of today’s jobs require Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills. Three-quarters of the fastest growing occupations demand substantial math and science preparation, and those numbers are expected to rise. A STEM education will be essential in the work world of today’s children.

The Mebane Foundation has a rich history of employing and investing in these fundamental STEM principles to design and implement projects which boost student achievement by creating 21st century classroom learning environments taught by top-notch teachers.

In 2012, Moore County Schools received a $2 million + three-year commitment/partnership to launch an innovative professional development model for K-12 teachers known as “STEM Infusion.”

stem-infusionSTEM Infusion encourages and enhances learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and other subjects to ensure children receive excellent educations that open doors for them to greater career opportunities and more fulfilling, successful lives.

Our innovative STEM Infusion program, featuring intensive use of computer technology under the supervision of highly trained teachers committed to this education model, offers a marked increase in the percentage of students from all demographic groups successfully completing challenging STEM courses and pursuing post-secondary STEM careers.

The research and best practices tell us that the most effective way to increase student achievement is through top-quality professional development for 21st century teachers that includes intensive coaching, mentoring, and on-going support delivered on school sites.

The STEM Infusion program will implement problem-, project-, inquiry-based teaching methodologies and learning experiences as the standard venue for delivering integrated curricula across subject areas. This approach will establish best practices for our students to acquire and enhance content knowledge, develop communication skills, collaborate, problem-solve, and self-direct their learning as they learn in simulated job contexts. Including community STEM experts and resources is a critical element in the program’s success. Teachers and program participants will be trained in these methodologies, and world-class curricular materials will be included.

stem-infusion2Expanding upon the the success of the Mebane Masters program, STEM Infusion facilitated further STEM innovation through the creation of three, 5-member traveling teaching teams that provided training and assistance wherever needed throughout the Moore County school system. Each STEM team was composed of a highly skilled and experienced teacher, a beginning teacher, and three student teachers. These elementary, middle, and high-school teams assisted classroom teachers with creating and delivering high-quality, relevant, interdisciplinary STEM instruction by integrating technology and problem solving in their classes.  A new website was also established by the STEM team to share resources, including lesson plans.

Data showed that:

  • End-of-grade results showed improvement in student achievement growth in classrooms where teachers adopted the STEM Infusion approach to teaching and learning in relation to teachers in the same grade level who did use STEM Infusion.
  • Benchmark data from 5th grade science indicates a strong correlation between the amount of exposure to STEM Infusion lessons and student performance on the benchmark assessments tests.
  • Gains in student achievement between pre and post-tests for each lesson taught remained high. The average student grade on the lesson pre-test was 49% and the average post-test was 89%. Statistically, the change in student achievement from pre to post-test is extremely significant.

For additional detail, feel free to download our Stem Infusion – Results and Final Recommendations Report.

stem-infusion3President’s Note:

STEM Infusion was designed to create and implement a replicable, sustainable model for all of North Carolina school systems. We believe the program has the potential to deliver a marked increase in the percentages of students across diverse groups successfully completing challenging STEM courses, then pursuing post-secondary STEM careers and educational opportunities.

To be successful, collaboration and program buy-in from business, industry and all community partners and stakeholders is imperative. Before launching the program in a school system, the formation of a project advisory board that meets quarterly to assist in project oversight, quality control and community involvement is a necessity. And to build and sustain community/stakeholder support, community gatherings to share information and to solicit suggestions for improving the program are imperative.

Consistent with our Guiding Principles, potential partners must build in processes and procedures that will ensure financial, philosophical, organizational, community sustainability. To ensure sustainability, it is critical that school systems attempting to integrate the model adopt board policies that embed the district’s STEM philosophy and goals, STEM diploma criteria, program-implementation expectations, and professional-development requirements in order to clearly align and prioritize them in district budgets.

Cooleemee Reading Project

Davie County’s Cooleemee Elementary had an enrollment of 520 students in kindergarten through the fifth grades in February 2009, and 72-73 percent of them were considered “Economically Disadvantaged” (receiving free and reduced-price lunches) by the State of North Carolina. Statistically, students who fall into that category are more likely to be academically at risk. Report card grades and standardized tests confirm that risk. The previous year,  Cooleemee Elementary did not make Acceptable Yearly Progress (AYP) in math under the No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and the students struggled to meet local standards as well.

cooleemee

From 2009-2011, the Mebane Foundation partnered with Cooleemee Elementary and Davie County Schools to help fund a systematic intervention program featuring diagnostic and prescriptive research-based programs delivered by computer – Waterford software for kindergarten students and Successmaker for the older children. In addition, teachers also employed comprehensive reading intervention strategies using The Hill Center RAP model. Student’s On-Going Achievement in Reading (SOAR) was added during the summer reading program.

In each lab, the program coordinator provided continuity, monitored students and provided technical support as needed. She was also responsible for generating and reviewing reports with teachers after every five lessons. The reports, which provided information about individual students and the entire class, were used to direct the complete intervention strategy, including instructional planning. Successmaker and Waterford reports, including grade-level equivalency, were also sent to parents with quarterly report cards and with progress reports mid-quarter. The frequent assessments provided a variety of helpful data about student progress. The assessments were also prescriptive, offering clear direction about areas needing improvement before end-of-year standardized tests.

The summer reading program ran for three weeks and provided three hours of small-group or individual reading instruction each day along with free breakfasts and lunches through Child Nutrition. During the summer, when many students regress in their academic skills, Cooleemee students demonstrated growth that continued into the school year.

Each of these programs and interventions provided another layer of support for the students, and each layer offered an opportunity to bring students closer to increased academic achievement and a more promising future.

The Summer Reading Program at Cooleemee was a tremendous success! We achieved the initial goals 1) to increase student achievement in this academically-challenged school; and 2) to provide a successful working model that could be implemented throughout the other Davie County elementary schools.

But challenges remained, exacerbated by the continued economic downturn of the area. They are reflected in the increasing populations of Cooleemee at-risk students:

  • Of the 452 students enrolled during 2010-2011, 83% (382 students) were Economically Disadvantaged;
  • An average of 185 students received Book Bags for Hope weekly;
  • Of the 22.8% Hispanic population (105 students) in the school, 13.2% (61 students) were served in the English Language Learners’ program because of a language barrier to their learning.
  • A comparable number, 13.4% (62 students) were served in the Exceptional Children’s program because of learning difficulties.

FINAL RESULTS

Summer Reading Program

  1. Successmaker, Waterford and other researched based intervention such as Hill RAP or Hill Strategies have been used.
  2. Bus transportation for students enabled them to access the Child Nutrition Program of free breakfast and lunch before and after reading instruction.
  3. Data generated through assessments given throughout the year has been maintained to track progress. The focus of instruction continues to be for students at-risk in reading, primarily to help them improve comprehension skills. Students’ gains carry over into the regular year from the summer program.
  4. We have documented a number of success stories of students connecting in the small groups to produce a more positive, productive attitude carrying over throughout the year. We have also tracked steady gains with many students who have continued to attend the summer camps.
  5. For the first two summers, a pre-kindergarten camp has been included during the last 8-9 days of SOAR. This has proven to be very beneficial in preparing those identified as most at-risk to transition more successfully academically and socially into kindergarten, narrowing the gap with those who are more prepared.

Successmaker Computerized Program and Lab

  1. The Successmaker lab has had a tremendous impact on student learning in the school over the first two years. Benchmarks were raised during the second year, and minimum proficiency level to advance increased from 65% to 80%. The grade-level proficiency benchmark was raised to the next grade level instead of the average required to score proficient on the End-of-Grade tests.
  2. Teachers have become more attentive to data generated by Successmaker reports and how it can improve classroom instruction through literacy centers and individualized instruction.
  3. The program’s evolving effectiveness and efficiency has captured the interest of others. The school was asked to conduct a workshop for the other five elementary schools in the county focusing on the use of reports available, the additional options that had been developed, and classroom applications. Cooleemee Elementary was also asked to present its system at the North Carolina Title I Conference during the second year.
  4. Data provided by the Cumulative Gains Reports continues to indicate students are making progress at and above expected rates.

Waterford Computerized Program and Lab

  1. Scheduling for kindergarten and first grade improved in the first year, providing small-group instruction in the classrooms and researched-based instruction in the lab.
  2. Teachers wanted access to the media center stations for additional sessions to support students outside the scheduled groups who were significantly below grade level.
  3. Reports from Waterford matched indicators from the classroom and provided information that supported classroom instruction as well as parents’ awareness of their children’s progress.