Here's what Cayce Elementary is doing to grow students' academic, leadership success

This week, the SC Department of Education released school, district, and state report cards. The 2019 report cards reflect school, district, and overall state performance during the 2018-19 school year and are the second iteration of report cards that meet the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Here at Cayce Elementary,  achievement levels didn’t change dramatically -- reading and math scores were up only slightly -- though the growth rating isn’t where we want it to be. We are not happy with an unsatisfactory score. Obviously, it’s not where we want to be -- but frankly,  it’s not where we expect to be at this time next year.

This most recent round of report card scores reflects where Cayce was a year ago -- 2018-19 was Cayce Elementary’s second year in existence, following a transition year that brought together 1,100 students from a primary school with no testing grades and an elementary school. 

Cayce’s second year, in 2018-19, introduced a new principal, Andrew Drozdak, and new administrative leadership team members who are implementing a culture that engages our diverse community of students, families, and community and business partners.  

“We are excited about the changes we are putting in place at Cayce Elementary School,” said Drozdak.  “We believe our focus on providing our students with a personalized learning experience, based on a data-driven decision-making process, will allow our students to grow academically, emotionally, and socially going forward.”

So what are we doing to help your child succeed -- academically, socially and emotionally? Let’s take a look.

Here are 5 of Cayce Elementary’s recently launched academic initiatives: 

  1. Edmentum is used school-wide for 30 minutes weekly in math and reading. Edmentum designs an individualized learning path for students based on STAR data and is continuously adjusted based on student progress in the program. Edmentum focuses on areas students are behind grade-level on and provides intensive remediation. Our early data is showing above-average growth for STAR students in these programs.
  2. The Response to Intervention model has been redesigned to offer learning “tiers” for students, based on the intervention level needed, from additional small group learning (Tier 2) to individual instruction (Tier 3) -- in addition to regular classroom time. Grade level teachers are identifying weekly those students who need Tier 2 intervention based on deficits in specific standards. Teachers, with the assistance of a newly hired student interventionist, are serving students in small groups to address the specific needs. Tier 3 instruction is provided by 3 interventionists based on students’ STAR, DRA and SC Ready scores, and this intervention time has been intentionally scheduled to not disrupt the uninterrupted reading and math blocks during the school day.
  3. Data walls have been designed to critically look at students who are above and below proficiency, in conjunction with their growth progress. Based on this data, teachers target their instruction to best meet the needs of their students. Teachers also meet weekly to discuss student data and develop strategies to boost achievement in essential standards.
  4. SC Ready scores have been disaggregated by growth, with specific and individualized plans created for students whose scores decreased from 2017-2018 to 2018-19.
  5. Fourth- and fifth-grade students have gone to team teaching models to capitalize on teacher strengths and allow them to specialize in either math or reading.

“All data is informative, and we are strategically using our recent results to drive our instructional decisions for the current school year,” said Assistant Principal Allyson Stoy-Long.  “With these intentional initiatives, we anticipate great success with even more than test scores -- focusing on educating the whole child at Cayce Elementary.”

Among other new initiatives launched this year to support student learning:

  • Cayce Elementary has been accepted as a PDS school with the University of South Carolina. As part of this partnership, a USC professor is located at Cayce Elementary and teaches collegiate level courses and offers professional development for teachers and other staff members. Through this partnership, Cayce has increased numbers of student interns and teachers. Cayce also has access to USC faculty for professional development based on needs and requests. 
  • Cayce has added a parent liaison to involve parents in the process to improve achievement. Every two weeks, Cayce hosts a breakfast with administrators for about 25 families at a time to talk about school-home relationships. 
  • Leader in Me: This new program helps students with intentional goal-setting for learning, as well as social, emotional and leadership skills.
  • Student celebrations include monthly pep rallies to recognize student accomplishments, student choice clubs on Wednesday, and social emotional learning time daily to set goals and celebrate student achievement.

Cayce’s students like many of the changes they’re seeing this school year, here in the school's third year.

“All the teachers and staff members make learning fun,” said fifth-grader Laila MacKinnon. “I really like Leader in Me because you get to be a leader of yourself and make your own choices.”

Fourth-grader Raelynn DeIRouen agreed.

“I think that Leader in Me is making the school better, because children understand that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished,” Raelynn said.  “Learning at Cayce is really fun because we are learning more things this year, like editing and revising and how to read different types of books and find the details.”

As is the case at many Lexington Two schools, Cayce Elementary’s community and business partners play a key role in helping students.

“We are very thankful for our local businesses and organizations that are supporting us in this process,” Drozdak said. “We want to thank House of Radford, Southern First Bank, and Trinity Baptist Church to name a few for their support. We believe that with our changes, and the support of our community, the future is very bright at Cayce Elementary School.”