Bertie STEM honored

Published 11:11 am Friday, June 24, 2011

DURHAM –  Bertie STEM High School, one of North Carolina’s pioneering secondary schools with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, was honored today with the Innovator Award, presented annually by the North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP) to a pace-setting high school within its network that is demonstrating strong results in preparing all students for college, careers and life.

The award was presented to the school during NCNSP’s Summer Institute, a three-day conference attended by 500 educators from its network schools across the state.

In the four years since Bertie STEM opened its doors, the school has helped raise expectations not only for its students but for all high school students in the county with a model that helps all students succeed. The pioneering school this year graduated 94 percent of the freshmen who started four years ago as the inaugural class. More than half of them have been accepted by and plan to attend a four-year college or university.

NCNSP President Tony Habit said Bertie STEM stands out for its success in achieving strong outcomes for all its students.

“Through strong leadership from Principal Glenwood Mitchell and strong support from the Bertie school district’s central office, the school has established an academic culture where rigorous instruction is now the norm and high performance an expectation for all students,” Habit said.

“Bertie STEM has created a culture in which all students understand that their education doesn’t end with a high school diploma,” he said. “The faculty and staff at the school have taught students to believe in themselves because they believe in them. They don’t accept excuses.”

The other finalists for this year’s Innovator Award were The Early/Middle College at Bennett in Guilford County, City of Medicine Academy in Durham and Greene Early College High School in Greene County.

In presenting the awards, Habit said that all four schools stand out for their success with raising student achievement.

“All of these schools have had few, if any dropouts. Those with graduating classes have graduated nearly all, of the 9th graders who began with them four or five years ago,” Habit said.

“All of the schools have created a culture where supportive relationships allow teachers to grow and students to thrive,” he said. “And all of these schools are going the extra distance to ensure that every student is well prepared for college, career and life.”

With an overall passing rate of 88 percent last year on state exams, Bertie STEM had already earned the title of “school of distinction” in 2010 from the State Board of Education. The school went one better this year, earning a combined passing rate on all tests of 92 percent, which puts it on track to be a “school of excellence” when the state board announces the ABCs accountability results later this summer or early in the fall. In Algebra I this year, not one of the 41 students who took the test failed it; 60 percent earned a score of 4 on the 4-point scale. Of the seven subjects at Bertie STEM which included state exams, five of them had passing rates above or just under 90 percent.

“Those are the kind of results that any high school in North Carolina would be proud to claim,” Habit said. “At Bertie STEM, where more than two thirds of the students are from low-income families, those results are proof that high expectations, powerful teaching and learning and strong leadership make all the difference.”

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald will have more information.