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Carolina Community Academy begins its second year by increasing K-2 literacy

Photo Courtesy of The Director of Communications and Marketing/Carolina Community Academy.

In August, the Carolina Community Academy began its second year serving Roxboro, N.C. students and families in kindergarten through second grade with a social-emotional learning curriculum.

UNC and Person County Schools launched CCA, an educational initiative, in August 2022 to “redefine and strengthen” University relationships with North Carolina public schools, according to its website. 

The partnership aims to be a resource for the academic success and social well-being of the whole child and the whole family, CCA principal Daniel Watson said.

CCA is a laboratory school within North Elementary and is separate from Person County Schools. Amy Richardson, the director of CCA, said the academy provides an advanced learning opportunity for students in “low-performing” schools and districts.

The N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 1030 in 2016, which mandated the UNC Board of Governors to establish eight lab schools. The bill was then revised in 2017 to require at least nine lab schools. The Roxboro program is the ninth lab school to open across the state.

Watson said UNC took the task of creating a lab school "to heart" considering the breadth of the Leandro v. North Carolina case. The Leandro case concerns inadequate and unequal funding for students in low-wealth school districts, and it is based on the idea that all students should receive a "sound basic education."

CCA’s goal is to provide resources that increase K-2 literacy in Person County, so students continue to show growth and improvement through the years, Watson said.

“UNC doesn’t look for the easy way out,” Watson said. “We look for where there is need and what can we do to increase capacity in that area.”

The academy expects to operate for a minimum of five years in compliance with the bill. Appointed by UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, the CCA advisory board includes UNC’s School of Education Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick and UNC Board of Trustees member Ramsey White. The CCA advisory board meets at least twice a year to receive feedback on the academy’s progress.

“We have the honor of doing this, but we also believe very strongly in our responsibility to take this work and to do the very best we can in collaboration with those around us,” Richardson said.

The academy integrates a “Second Step” curriculum taught by core teachers and supplementarily taught by North Elementary’s school counselor, Watson said. The curriculum includes learning the student’s self-awareness and their personal space in and outside of the classroom.

“Our social-emotional curriculum hits all of our students,” Watson said. “We use a common language throughout so that every student, every teacher, every adult is on the same page.”

Watson said through the social-emotional learning curriculum, CCA students learn skills like emotional regulation, anger management, friendship and problem-solving skills. Students are also provided with small-group and individual support by teachers, counselors and social workers. 

CCA students and families also have access to wraparound services provided by UNC and local entities within the UNC School of Education's coalition, which includes other schools in the University. These services are personalized to each student and not solely focused on education.

“Wraparound services are meeting the families where they are and helping them get where we need them to be,” Watson said.

Kimone Clarke, a CCA kindergarten teacher, said the academy’s approach to learning is beneficial for students because it incorporates life experiences in learning. 

“I see students — those that I had last year — they're more outspoken now,” Clarke said. “They're expressing themselves better.”

Brittany West, a Person County community member and a member of the CCA advisory board, has a child enrolled in first grade at CCA. West said she is very satisfied with the academy’s effort to have one-on-one meetings to get to know the students and best accommodate their needs.

For example, West said CCA accommodates her son, who is “very hyper,” by allowing him to leave the classroom and get “a little bit of energy out.”

“Everybody is down to earth,” she said. “You can talk to them like a family member or friend.”


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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the academy's “Second Step” curriculum. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

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