Superintendent’s Corner: Schools always a work in progress

Jan. 28, 2013 @ 03:07 PM

Last Wednesday night, Durham Public Schools was honored to host several hundred citizens, parents, volunteers and educators at our annual State of Our Schools presentation. This was an opportunity to share with Durham both our progress in completing our four-year Strategic Plan for improving our schools, and also our academic indicators — the benchmarks we have set along the way. (The plan is available at dpsnc.net/stratplan.)
There were many opportunities for celebration that night, from welcoming some of our graduating seniors moving on to postsecondary education, to powerful partnerships with our business community. We have seen proficiency gains in most subjects, and in every major academic category we are improving faster than the statewide average. Achievement gaps are narrowing and our dropout rate is declining. Our teachers and principals are doing excellent work to motivate and support our students. We have no low performing schools.
But the State of Our Schools presentation was also an acknowledgement that for all our improvement, we still have much work to do. Our students’ reading performance lags their math performance, and a narrowing achievement gap is still a gap. If we are to hit our academic targets and — more importantly — ensure academic success for every student regardless of background, we will have to accelerate our progress.
Educators, principals and staff in Durham Public Schools recognize this responsibility to our students. They work into the night long after the final school bell has rung to assess their students’ progress, identify strategies for improvement, and plan lessons. This professionalism and dedication to our students is the standard for DPS employees and I greatly appreciate it.
Our school employees are not, and cannot be, alone in our efforts to make every school high performing with every student achieving more than a year’s academic growth annually. Durham must remain united in meeting this challenge. Students must accept their own responsibility for meeting expectations. Parents must accept responsibility for establishing those expectations and supporting their children. Businesses, faith communities, civic groups and volunteers must remain involved with our students and support our schools.
Durham Public Schools is on the right track. The changes we have made, driven by our Strategic Plan, are laying the foundation for long-term improvement. However, moving in the right direction does not relieve us of the urgency for even greater progress. The three graduating seniors who spoke at the State of Our Schools presentation brought along their siblings. They asked if we were still as committed to their brothers’ and sisters’ success as we had been to theirs. The audience’s response was a loud and clear, “Yes.”
What is your response? Go to dpsnc.net/volunteers and Get Involved.
Dr. Eric J. Becoats is superintendent of Durham Public Schools. His column appears the last Tuesday of each month.