Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools: Collaboration Over Competition

Conference Participant, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools Focuses on Collaboration over Competition

Left to right: Tripp Jeffers, President, Forsyth County Association of Educator; Donny C. Lambeth, Chairman, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education; Arne Duncan; Don Martin, Superintendent; Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. (Photo courtesy of Tripp Jeffers via Twitter.)

At this week’s labor-management conference, 150 teams of districts are meeting to discuss ways to work together to improve student achievement. The fifth largest school system in North Carolina and the 83rd largest in the country, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools is one of many districts there that has cultivated a strong, collaborative relationship among with labor leaders.

In the Winston-Salem district, the long-standing relationship between the Forsyth County Association of Educators (FCAE) and the district has supported several of innovative projects:

  • Annual surveys of teachers, first developed collaboratively more than 20 years ago, capture information about working climate and school conditions. The data are used to inform professional development activities and principals’ evaluations.
  • FCAE members serve on multiple committees at the district level, sharing responsibility with district leaders and board of education members for initiatives such as the district’s grant from the Department’s Teacher Incentive Fund and Race to the Top applications.
  • FCAE participates in the district’s Teacher Advisory Committee, which allows for teacher input in district vision and policy.

The district uses the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Process (adopted in 2008). FCAE provides the teacher training on the evaluation process, which asks principals to assess teacher progress using a rubric that details four levels of performance (Developing, Proficient, Accomplished, and Distinguished). Ratings are based on classroom observations and examples of work compiled by teachers as evidence of their practice. Beginning this school year, documentation for at least one standard must include an example of student growth data, including SAS EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) results or other approved measures. The local and state teachers’ associations collaborate to provide much of the targeted professional development given to teachers as part of the evaluation and growth process.

Superintendent Donald Martin says the value of the relationship with the teachers’ association is immeasurable. “It is hard to put into words,” he says, “the value of a collaborative relationship with the teachers’ association that is built on mutual trust. The residual benefits are great, and we probably take them for granted.”