Curriculum Innovation Department: Academic Recovery

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While every department within Duplin County Schools serves a vital function to the system’s overall operation, the Curriculum Innovation Department is the nucleus of teaching and learning.  Under its large umbrella are PreK-13 Curriculum (content, pacing, and resources), Academically or Intellectually Gifted (enrichment for advanced learners), Career and Technical Education (career pathways), Digital Learning and Media (digital/blended learning and media centers), Exceptional Children’s Program (support for students with identified disabilities), Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (academic and behavior support for at-risk students), and Social-Emotional Learning (positive relationships, healthy emotions, and decision-making).

The Curriculum Innovation Department is filled with knowledgeable, skilled, experienced and passionate professionals that stay abreast of current educational research and practice and make sure our schools are well-equipped to meet the demands of 21st century education. However, after an eventful last few years, the department and school system at large is faced with an even greater task – Academic Recovery. At the December 7, 2021 Board of Education meeting, Interim Chief Officer for STEAMA Curriculum and Instruction, Nicole Murray stated, “We recognize that interruptions in learning our students have experienced over multiple years, resulting from two hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, have created gaps in student learning and growth. All of us, teachers, leaders, students, and families, need each other in order to support, accelerate, and grow our students. We did not get here in a single year, and we will not recover in a single year. Our students are not where we need them to be right now, but we are determined to close those gaps.”

Following these introductory comments, the board was presented with current and ongoing strategies schools are utilizing to regain academic and social-emotional learning loss. Robbin Cooper of Rose Hill – Magnolia Elementary School presented on behalf of all K-8 schools and Scott Ballard of East Duplin High School presented for all high schools. Here are some of the academic recovery approaches that were highlighted:


  • Employ an Interventionist at each school to assist with identification and small group instruction of at-risk students and drop-out prevention
  • Use additional federal funding to provide more classroom teachers to reduce class size
  • Schedule a designated intervention period during the school day
  • Provide after school tutoring
  • Implement high-quality, research-based intervention programs
  • Assess and monitor progress frequently
  • Analyze data and modify instructional plans accordingly
  • Implement revised middle grades CTE curriculum that emphasizes reading, writing, and other content areas
  • Expand access to credit recovery opportunities in high schools
  • Intensify ACT preparation for all juniors
  • Screen all students for Social-Emotional needs
  • Implement Social-Emotional curriculum with fidelity
  • Utilize counselors and social workers for small group and individual sessions, attendance monitoring and family support
  • Provide additional mental health and telemedicine services as needed
  • Partner with Communities in Schools


The presentation to the board concluded with an update from Pam Murray, Special Advisor for K-8 Curriculum and MTSS, on the Science of Reading and a Literacy Intervention plan. “The Science of Reading is an evidence-based reading instruction methodology that will help us learn more about how children learn to read, help us understand what is happening when children struggle to read, and help us implement the kind of instruction that is most likely to work best for the majority of students.” Duplin County Schools is in the process of creating a Literacy Intervention Plan that is aligned with the Science of Reading that will inform how we intervene when a student shows signs of reading difficulties. All PreK-5 teachers will participate in intensive Science of Reading professional development with the ultimate goal of all students reading on grade level by the end of third grade. This is a pivotal time when students begin to transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Murray echoed the sentiments of others by pledging, “We will not waiver from the commitment to academic recovery.”

During his remarks, Superintendent Austin Obasohan implored reasonable expectations, accountability, and solidarity among all stakeholders. “No one is asking to be let off the hook, but we are asking for reasonable expectations, support, understanding, and sensitivity. We need to support our teachers, support our students, our parents. Our teachers need us at this time more than ever before, but we still need to hold each other accountable. The superintendent, principals, everyone, parents, students. We all need to be held accountable to close this achievement gap. We have to do it together.”

Duplin County Schools wishes everyone a joyous and restorative holiday so we may all come back rested and ready for the hard work and successful outcomes ahead!