Turning around a low-performing school is difficult work. It can present particular challenges in rural communities located far from resources and social support structures. However, this work is possible with strong leadership and by building upon the strengths of a small school that serves as the center of its community, as is illustrated by the West Carter Middle School success story.
Located in Olive Hill, KY, within the Appalachian coal mountain region, West Carter Middle School serves fewer than 500 students, more than two-thirds of whom are eligible for free and reduced-priced meals. Before 2005, student achievement was stagnant and persistently low in math and reading.
However, under new leadership, West Carter underwent a transformation. Principal Sherry Horsley, an assistant principal at West Carter for four years, set a new direction for students and staff. She increased community and staff collaboration, increased learning time for students, and established a vision for the future.
Students now plan and prepare for success in college or a career. The faculty is now collaborating more. Teachers are using data and technology to target student needs. Parents have been encouraged by the results.
West Carter now ranks among the top 15 percent of middle schools in Kentucky and was honored as a “School to Watch” by the Kentucky Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform this year.