A specific request from two district superintendents to focus research and intervention in the four elementary schools with the highest poverty levels in the county launched The Four Schools Project. In-depth reporting by the Spartanburg Herald Journal about many local factors influencing learning in high poverty communities has generated new community dialog about what support can be put in place to help mitigate these factors. The end goal: address the challenges faced by children so that their time in school can be most impactful. The key learning thus far is that influences inside the schools are only a few pieces of the puzzle. SAM is working with partners across the county and beyond to identify ways to address these issues and create the positive transformation of systems impacting the lives of our children so that educational success is a natural part of their life path.

An animated timeline of The Four Schools Project milestones to-date.

SAM brought the project to it’s action partner, the United Way of the Piedmont. With district leaders, they coordinated professional development to teachers in the schools with the highest poverty rates to increase educators’ understanding of the external influences impacting students From there, teacher feedback helped identify specific areas for intervention. SAM, District leaders and principals then built on the partnership with the University of South Carolina Upstate and it’s Center for Childhood Advocacy Studies Child Protection Training Center, one of only four such centers in the country . The result was a comprehensive training for educations in the Compassionate Schools Model.

In researching success models working in other communities facing similar challenges, empowering teachers and students with Continuous Improvement (CI) strategies has taken shape as the most promising intervention utilizing our strong partnerships in the schools. Early training in the CI methodology, also referred to as rapid PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycles began over the spring and summer of 2018 and have launched in the four schools. From there, and with the understanding that The Four Schools Project can serve as an incubator for best-practice work to address the influence of poverty across all Spartanburg County schools and community partners, a new community resource is being launched. Stay tuned…