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Terry Holliday, Ph.D.
Type of Work: Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) is a K-12 public school system located in southwestern North Carolina within a diverse community and economy. I-SS offers a variety of courses and educational programs to meet student needs, including heterogeneously grouped classrooms, two at-risk/behavior schools, and virtual and early college settings. The system also offers dual enrollment courses in partnership with a local community college and short-term alternative site placement programs.
Budget: $160 million
Workforce: 3,416 (includes 1,661 faculty and 1,254 staff)
Location: Four central offices and 35 schools in Iredell County, N.C., including 19 elementary schools, seven middle schools, five high schools, two alternative/at-risk schools and two early colleges.
In spite of a lower budget and per pupil expenditure (ranked 107 out of 115 in North Carolina), I-SS has outperformed comparative districts at the state and national level. Student achievement rose from 55th to 9th, out of North Carolina's more than 100 school districts, during the period 2002-2008. Iredell-Statesville's total average SAT score at 1056 in 2008 was better than peer district (995), state (1007, rising from 57th to 7th) and national (1017) averages.
The district has provided teachers with both face-to-face and virtual opportunities to collaborate on improving student learning. The initiative has transformed the school system's culture from a "focus on teaching" to a "focus on learning."
I-SS has been steadily improving reading proficiency. For example in 2006-2007, the district:
achieved a 90.6 percent proficiency on the state reading assessment;
closed the reading proficiency gap between African-American children and all students from 23 percent to 12.3 percent; and
decreased the reading proficiency gap between exceptional children and all students from 42 percent to 21 percent.
Cohort graduation rates (the percentage of ninth graders who graduated from high school four years later) have steadily increased from approximately 61 percent in 2002-2003 to 81 percent in 2007-2008.
At the district, school and classroom level, I-SS is using a "Raising Achievement, Closing the Gap" model to focus staff on what students should know and be able to do. When performance does not meet targets, the gap is addressed through the use of a "Plan-Do-Study-Act" (PDSA) cycle to identify and implement improvement opportunities. As a result:
SAT performance at Iredell-Statesville Schools during the past five years has improved by over 60 points to 1056 while national averages have seen a 9-point decline to 1017.
Twenty-nine percent of I-SS students achieve a score of 3 or higher on at least one Advanced Placement exam during their high school career, almost double the national rate of 15 percent.
I-SS has outperformed comparable districts in the state of North Carolina in the following areas: attendance (96 percent versus 94 percent), dropout rate (3.5 percent versus 5.3 percent) and teacher turnover rates (10 percent versus 12 percent).
In I-SS classrooms, fact-based, data-driven decision making supports learning and continuous improvement. Data are reviewed at the class and individual student level, where they are used to assess progress toward goals and modify PDSAs.
To meet its strategic priority of "Quality Teachers-Administrators-Staff" and embrace the state mandate of "21st century skills for leaders and teachers," I-SS implemented evaluation rubrics that have led to an improvement in staff and stakeholder capability. As a result:
The percentage of highly qualified teachers in I-SS schools has increased from 84 percent to 96.5 percent over the last four years.
The percentage of faculty certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has increased by 50 percent in the last four years.
I-SS utilizes a multi-faceted recruitment program that has increased both the number of applicants and the minority workforce during recent years. I-SS started the last two years with 100 percent of staff positions filled.
I-SS has been utilized as a best practice case study by the American Productivity Quality Council, the American Society for Quality, TeachScape and Follett.