In 2006, Forestville Road Elementary School had a problem.
Only about 70 percent of the school’s students were passing math. Principal Dianne Pridgen knew she needed to find a way to fix that.
By the 2011-2012 school year, 93.7 percent of the 5th-grade students were posting passing grades on end-of-grade tests.
That kind of growth has put Forestville Road in the top 5 percent of schools in the state with the highest growth measurements, a feat recognized by the Wake Education Partnership (Wake Ed) “Excellence in Action” program.
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Excellence in Action, according to Wake Ed’s vice president for policy and communications, Tim Simmons, is often described around the organization’s office as “Stuff That Works,” and is used to showcase some of the successful practices implemented in the school.
Schools like Panther Creek High School and Durant Road Middle School have been recognized. This year, Barwell Road Elementary is being recognized along with Forestville Road.
“(We didn’t choose these schools) anecdotally,” said Wake Ed president Steve Parrott. “We’ve looked at the metrics.”
In the 2011-2012 school year, Forestville Road had 72 percent of student meeting their growth targets, compared to the country’s overall 65 percent.
Using resources creatively
The school’s success is partially because of Pridgen’s creativity in allocating resources around the school.
About two years ago, the county was looking for schools that were willing to be global schools, creating an international focus through instruction and activities.
It was unclear how that would affect the school, but Pridgen saw a chance to harness the materials the title of being a global school would bring.
The county named Forestville Road a global school and with that came 30 iPads for each grade level and a Spanish teacher but no extra money.
It wasn’t a setback for Pridgen and her staff.
“The (global school status) has been a great opportunity for us,” Pridgen said.
The school wanted to better use technology and make sure they had new technology for students. Receiving the iPads meant the school wouldn’t have to find funding for that.
In addition to the new technology and instructional support, Pridgen found a better use of their status as a Title I school.
Title I schools receive extra funding for students who traditionally need extra instruction, like students on free or reduced lunch. Forestville received Title I funding for all its students, not just a small group like other schools.
“Title I has been a tremendous help for us,” Pridgen said. “I have the flexibility of using Title I dollars with other dollars to maximize its use for students.”
Pridgen credited the county for allowing her to create her own budget within her school.
Proficiency still below average
Even though Forestville Road has posted some of the best growth scores in the state, the school, like many in eastern Wake County, still falls behind in proficiency.
Growth rates measure how many students improve over a year’s worth of time, but that doesn’t mean all the students are performing at grade level, which is what proficiency measures.
“The teachers at Forestville are keenly aware that until the school can make similar claims about overall proficiency, there is still a lot of work to do,” Wake Ed wrote in a summary of Forestville’s successes.
After the 2011-2012 testing, North Carolina adopted the Common Core standards, which are widely regarded as more rigorous and for many school systems, decrease test scores in the beginning.
In the most recent round of test scores released by the county in November, Forestville had a 44.9 percent proficiency rate. It was the second-highest rate in the area not counting charter school East Wake Academy.
Forestville was behind only Lake Myra Elementary in Wendell. Lake Myra had a 48.4 percent proficiency rate.
The lowest profiency rates in the area were at Hodge Road Elementary, which posted a 22.9 percent proficiency rate.
The county’s average proficiency rate is 55.8 percent.
Pridgen, however, said the school is working on it. Much like when the school improved math scores over a few years, she said seeing a turnaround will take a few years but her staff is willing to work closely with students to see improvement.
“That’s our success at our school,” Pridgen said. “We have a heart.”