Local News

Halifax teachers hope training will 'turn this all around'

Posted August 6, 2009 7:06 a.m. EDT
Updated August 6, 2009 3:05 p.m. EDT

— Due to dismal student test scores, nearly 400 Halifax County teachers are undergoing training this week and next to help energize their teaching methods.

Coaches from the state Department of Public Instruction turnaround team descended upon the school system Monday and will stay until Aug. 14. School starts on Aug. 25.

“We’re not feeling it as a punishment. We definitely need the assistance, and this is quality assistance,” said Enfield Middle School language arts teacher Yolanda Wiggins. “We’re ready to show everyone that we can turn this all around.”

Wiggins is the district’s 2008-09 Teacher of the Year.

More than 71 percent of the district's elementary school students aren't proficient in reading, and 74.3 percent of middle school students aren't proficient, according to state figures.

At the high school level, about one-third of the students are considered proficient on end-of-course tests, compared with 68 percent statewide.

The performance prompted Superior Court Judge Howard Manning to call for a state takeover of the district, calling continued poor performance "academic genocide."

Gov. Beverly Perdue, state education officials and Halifax school administrators said the effort – the first of its kind in North Carolina – isn't a state takeover. Instead, they viewed it as a partnership to ensure local students keep pace with their peers statewide.

Teicher Patterson, a music teacher and band director at Northwest Halifax High School, said he was learning creative ways to combine music and other subjects into his teaching.

“As I’m working with English teachers this morning, we’re trying to determine what activities we can do in the music classroom that can also be done in the English classroom and social studies classroom,” said Peterson, who is also president of the Halifax County branch of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Benjamin Taylor, one of the state's trainers, encouraged the teachers and gave them tips to help inspire students.

“Let’s start at the textbook, but let’s end with creating really cool activities that will rope those middle school kids in intellectually,” he said. “What we try to do is make sure (these teachers) understand they’re the experts and they have it within themselves to make the difference in the classroom.”

The teachers are training at William R. Davie Middle School – elementary school teachers in the cafeteria, middle school teachers in the auditorium and high school teachers in the media center.

Other school employees, including teachers' assistants, nurses and counselors, will undergo team-building training. The Department of Public Instruction also plans to offer professional development opportunities throughout the year.