Parkview Village Elementary Expressive Arts Magnet School was about a year into a homegrown turnaround effort when it got a nearly $1.2 million federal School Improvement Grant, aimed at improving low-performing schools.
The school’s new principal, Wayne Mayo, had a record of bolstering achievement at high-poverty, high-minority schools elsewhere in the state. The grant gave him tools to more fully carry out his vision at Parkview—part of North Carolina’s Guilford County district—beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
Just a small handful of the school’s roughly two dozen teachers elected to stay on for the federally funded turnaround, and Mr. Mayo was able to offer new recruits signing bonuses of up to $2,500.
Mr. Mayo also amped up the school’s focus on using data to improve student achievement. And the school embraced extended learning time; it added 10 days to the school year, plus an extra week of teacher professional development.
It also extended the school day by 45 minutes—and students get started learning with a drop-everything-and-read period while they eat their free breakfast.
“If people can sit in restaurants and read a magazine, children can read and eat in the morning,” Mr. Mayo joked.
But the schedule is demanding, Mr. Mayo acknowledged, and he thinks it contributed to the school’s teacher-absenteeism rate, which he pegged at about 20 percent.
“We have teachers that get burned out, coming in early and staying late,” Mr. Mayo said.
The school lost seven teachers after the first year of the SIG grant, in part because staff members were no longer eligible for retention bonuses for serving in hard-to-staff schools, after changes were made to the district’s teacher-incentive program.
But the school is participating in another federal grant aside from SIG: Race to the Top aid for districts. In Guilford County, the program includes an initiative aimed at educating African-American boys.
At Parkview, the initiative has helped shape an alternative approach to discipline called “the Prickly Paw program,” named in honor of the school’s mascot, a panther. Instead of suspension, a student might spend time cleaning up the school grounds, for instance.
Meanwhile, the school’s academic growth rate beat the state average in the 2013-14 school year.
“The culture of the school has changed,” Mr. Mayo said.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2015 edition of Education Week as SIG Money Gives Principal Tools for Turnaround