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MES a compassionate, resilient place for students

As the pilot school for Compassionate & Resilient Schools (CRS) in the Davie County School District, Mocksville Elementary School (MES) partnered with The Dragonfly House to take on a new, evidenced-based, whole-school whole-child approach that has been proven to be what is best for all children.

Jennifer Swofford was the principal leader for CRS implementation, along with her school social worker, Aubrey Draughn and members of the CRS Task Force at the school.

Swofford was passionate about MES being the pilot school when she first heard this initiative presented at the administrator’s retreat in Summer 2017.

“I felt immediately that this is what was missing from Mocksville Elementary and knew that if we went on this path then great things would happen for our students,” Swofford said.

MES began the journey that fall and spent a full school year laying the foundation and groundwork so that CRS could be implemented school-wide in the 2018-2019 school year.

“MES teachers ensured that through their work each day, creating connections and building relationships was at the forefront of every interaction,” Draughn said. “We all became intentional about our social and emotional support for kids and provided safe learning environments where students could regulate their emotions, take breaks when needed, and have at least one caring adult relationship in the building that they could benefit from.”

Through staff professional development in the compassionate and resilient schools’ model, as well as pushing the norms of how things have always been done in the past, the school staff began to adopt a new vision and mindset where reaching hearts before minds was the expectation. Even with this approach, Mocksville Elementary administration and staff have kept a strong instructional and academic focus and prioritized keeping their balance, although at times it did prove challenging.

“As we reviewed even simple data towards the end of last school year,” Swofford said, “we started to see great improvement in our attendance, discipline reports, and the number of truant children from the year prior.”

The school conducted a survey of their experts (the students) two years ago and before implementation of CRS began, only 14 percent of students stated they had a connection with an adult in their life that was a teacher or school staff member.  After CRS implementation occurred, the same survey was conducted last school year and showed that 76 percent of students felt they had a connection with a caring adult that was a teacher or school staff member, an increase of 62 percent in one year. In addition to that increase, the percentage of students that “felt safe at school” increased and students were stating on the survey that they “felt valued and loved while at school” as well.

These results were great news to the team at the end of last school year, but the biggest celebration came this August when statewide data from last school year was released and Mocksville Elementary administration and staff learned they exceeded student academic growth for the previous year. Many of the top trauma-informed and resiliency-focused leaders across the nation reported that academic growth does follow school-wide implementation, but they have shown that the academic growth isn’t typically seen until years 3-5 of implementation.

The teachers and staff at Mocksville Elementary blew that timeframe out of the water by seeing a large impact in Year 1 of implementation.

“This is a testament to just how passionately MES teachers and staff love and support students intentionally,” Swofford said.  “Throughout the CRS journey, we continue to be reminded of how important relationships truly are for students to be able to learn and how our kids need champions every day fighting for them, loving them, and cheering them on.”

The growth data for Mocksville Elementary School from School Year 2018-2019, the first year of CRS implementation:

• as a school, MES exceeded growth expectations;

• MES met growth in reading and exceeded growth in math for 2018-2019;

• the MES growth index in math is 5.14, double the growth from last year;

• MES had the highest elementary growth in the district;

• out of 762 elementary schools in North Carolina. MES ranked 36th in the state for overall growth; and

• MES landed in the top 5 percent of growth for math in the state.

Swofford was beyond excited, and relieved.

“Change is not always easy, but it is necessary when it is what’s best for our students. We could have never made this possible without our partnership with The Dragonfly House, who has supported us in our journey with their expertise, trauma-informed resources, needed supplies, and valuable time.”

To learn more about Compassionate & Resilient Schools, visit www.compassioateresilientschools.com.

As part of CRS, Mocksville Elementary revamped the RAMS motto that students recite every day

CRS is a trauma informed, resiliency focused model based on national best-practices but created locally through a collaboration of Davie County Schools and The Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center.

The Compassionate & Resilient Schools logo was uniquely created using key elements from the logos of Davie County Schools and The Dragonfly House. Orange is the primary color for Davie County Schools and is represented through the hearts, which are the children in our schools. Children can carry heavy burdens, so their hearts are upside down in the design.  Green represents the teachers and school personnel who extend their reach in every direction to lift children up and keep them from failing by using a compassionate and resiliency-focused lens.  The blue in this design is the primary color in The Dragonfly House logo and is represented through the hands, which support the schools and students with trauma-responsive and trauma-trained professionals who offer guidance, education, training, and resources.  

“Together We Extend Our Reach.”