MID-YEAR CASE STUDY: Trent Park Elementary School
Principal Ashley Faulkenberry describes Trent Park as “a community school. My parents went there. My husband’s parents went here. One of our design team member’s children went here. This school is very respected by the community.”
Trent Park was among the eastern North Carolina schools hit hard by Hurricane Florence in September 2018. Some Trent Park families suffered trauma and displacement. Students lost 28 days of instruction, and Faulkenberry describes the school community as “trying to play catch up” as students “lost everything that they’re used to.”
Trent Park staff are determined to go beyond” business as usual” to create a vibrant learning community for students and families. Trent Park is partnering with TrueSchool to engage in an innovative process that supports educators in closing achievement gaps in literacy for English Language Learners and African American students. The Trent Park team wants to challenge traditional approaches to learning and permit greater autonomy to teacher leaders to set the stage for all students to succeed.
The Trent Park School Design Team dug deeply into early fieldwork to understand the needs of their community. School Leader Ashley Faulkenberry recounts that “we had each team member take a different stakeholder group to interview or survey. We completed 3 student interviews each, held a parent panel, met with our refugee community and district leaders that represent our ESL program, and shadowed students across our school.”
Powerfully, the Trent Park Team is involving the entire school staff in the innovation process at collaborative professional development sessions, analyzing stakeholder perspective and generating new ideas, using practices from TrueSchool’s Toolkits. With this approach, the Trent Park Team learned that parents hoped for a deeper home-school connection, and for guidance on how to support their children in academic work at home.
Over the spring semester, Trent Park will be prototyping a Parent Academy in four 3rd grade classrooms, focused on increasing parent engagement with the school and sharing educational strategies for parents to bring home. Additionally, parents will be invited to visit the school to shadow, learning math side-by-side with their students. The learnings from this prototype will guide the Trent Park team in expanding and strengthening their parent outreach further.
Principal Faulkenberry shares her team’s vision for student impact “if we make the parents more comfortable visiting school we can set up networks of parents and build up a ‘parent portal.’ This will have a huge impact on student learning because the home-school-connection will be fluid.”
The Trent Park Team is also planning to expand its design team as the TrueSchool Program continues. They are seeking to increase the diversity of the team in order to be more reflective of the community they serve. As Principal Faulkenberry reflects: “If we’re preaching equity, then how are we living equity? From the outside looking in it doesn’t look like that. So we have been looking at our team and really making sure that we have the right people with the right skillset on our team to represent really truly who our community is and what our school demographics look like.” The Trent Park Design Team is considering broadening their team to include community members and parents. Recently, Faulkenberry has added a Classroom Teaching Assistant who has been supporting refugee students to the Trent Park School Design Team.
Faulkenberry describes the mid-year point in the TrueSchool Program a“cliffhanger; because we feel like we know what we are doing now and that we can do this! I think the next few Studios will be even better, and I’m excited to to branch out and connect to the state and national network.”