There must be something special about a school that gets visited by the High Commissioner of the United Nations. Home to a diverse learning community of 600 students with global origins, Hope Valley Elementary School serves students who speak a plethora of languages, a number of students whose families are refugees settling in Durham, and where parents and more than 30 community partners support the school’s vision. The school has been rated as among the top 100 most diverse elementary schools in the state of North Carolina, and thanks to the hard work of its teachers and staff, Hope Valley sits among the top 5% of elementary schools that have experienced growth in the state.
Jed Miller, the school’s principal, is working to eradicate tracking and disproportionality with what he describes as a “go-get attitude about serving all kids and not some of them.” That same philosophy is practiced for staff: Instructional Assistants teach lessons under the tutelage of their teachers, giving them an opportunity to decide whether full-time professional teaching is their calling. In class, rather than requiring raised hands to speak, students use popsicle sticks to demonstrate their desire to participate in classroom discussion.
“We always want all the students to have a voice. So everyone is included and involved,” said Miller.