‘Doing great things:’ Tuckaseegee Elementary Schools sees more than 94 percent growth during 2021-2022 school year

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – One Charlotte-Mecklenburg School principal is keeping reading fun and helping students improve each day.

Travares Hicks became the principal of Tuckaseegee Elementary School days before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Hicks quickly jumped into action and set his sights on improving reading performance for minority students.

“One of the things that were really alarming to me is the historical low performance of Black and Hispanic males,” Hicks said. “Throughout the past several years that subgroup did not meet growth, nor did that subgroup show any growth from the previous years so I knew that would be a challenge coming into Tuckaseegee.

According to a CMS progress monitoring report, the district wants to improve English Language Arts college and career readiness rates for Black and Hispanic third-grade students from nearly 16 percent in October 2021 to 36 percent by the end of the 2022-2023 school year and 50 percent by October 2024.

Some of the initiatives that Hicks and his teachers implemented were data-informed instruction which includes specific learning goals and data tracking for students.

The data tracking for students allows students to monitor their own progress.

“We also wanted our kids to monitor their daily data to be able to see I need to make good decisions not because my teacher is telling me but I need to make good decisions because I need to grow and be better than I was the previous day .”

The school also hosts a “State of Your Child Night” to share each student’s performance with their parents/guardians and equip adults with extra resources to help their child or children at home.

Last spring, the school did a March read-a-thon which encouraged students to read during free moments of the day. The school has also welcomed community partners including barbers, beauticians, and former professional athletes to come read to students.

Learning how to read is a passion close to Hicks’ heart who says he struggled with reading even in the third grade. Hicks says he would act out to avoid reading out loud in class. A teacher noticed his behavior and encouraged him with cassette tapes, it was those same tapes that Hicks used to teach himself how to read.

“I eventually started to learn some letters, started to learn some words, and I eventually taught myself how to read, and once I taught myself how to read it was like the world was unlocked for me and I haven’t put a book down since,” he said.

Additionally, the school dedicates time to social-emotional learning and wellness for students and staff.

Third-grade teacher Amber Pratt dedicates each morning to social-emotional learning.

“Every morning we have a morning meeting where we focus on social-emotional learning, so I really take the time to understand where they are and what they’re dealing with at home and share those things about myself as well,” Pratt said. “It reminds me that before they care what you know, they have to know that you care.”

According to NCDPI data, the school received a D letter from the state five years in a row from 2014-2019.

Earlier this month the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released the 2021-2022 data revealing that Tuckaseegee now has a “C” letter grade.

“I really want our community and our school to know that we are doing great things in our school building,” Hicks said. “To be able to see the reward of moving up on the letter scale is a phenomenal momentum builder to dish out our initiatives this year.”

Tuckaseegee was one of 14 schools that improved and moved off the low-performing list, according to state data. CMS originally had 42 schools on the list, 14 improved, but 22 different schools were added, bringing the total to 50 schools.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools recently opened registration for out-of-school time tutoring for the 42 highest-need schools. The program costs $50 million and is paid for through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

According to a release from CMS, the program will help offset lost instructional time due to COVID-19 and provide expanded learning opportunities for students to achieve greater academic success through high-dosage tutoring.

The Out-of-School Time Tutoring Virtual program will begin on Sept. 27 and the in-Person/blended program will begin on Oct. 10. Both programs will end on May 19, 2023.

“I really think that if we can be intentional about helping the kids who need help to grow, we can get great student outcomes,” Hicks said.

Every school across the state is given a letter grade. It is comprised of 80 percent school achievement and 20 percent growth. According to the state data, Tuckaseegee Elementary School had a 94.3 growth score and exceeded growth.

2021-2022 was the first time Tuckaseegee has exceeded growth since 2014. It met growth in 2015 and 2016, but it did not meet growth in 2014 or 2017-2019.

Another win from last school year is that 87 percent of Pratt’s students met grade level proficiency in third-grade math.

She also spends the majority of each learning block every day doing small group instruction.

“I meet with every student every day, so I know exactly what they need. I’m able to provide them individually what they need not just teaching out to a whole group,” Pratt said.

With their eyes on the prize, Principal Hicks says they’re moving forward and a letter grade won’t limit his students’ potential.

“It’s very important for our kids to know that a letter grade is just that, but inside of you there is something that is genius about each and every kid in this building.

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