Academy at Middle Fork, App State’s lab school, helps elementary schoolers and App State students


Courtesy of Academy at Middle Fork

Dean of Reich College of Education Melba Spooner and App State Chancellor Sheri Everts visit Academy at Middle Fork students in 2019. Students get the chance to connect with faculty, staff, and students of many majors at App State.

Emily Broyles, Reporter

Academy at Middle Fork, the App State state-mandated lab school, is nearing the end of its first year in which elementary students have boosted their test scores and learned about App State in the process.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation in 2016 that mandated nine colleges of education in the state to establish laboratory schools. Reich College of Education partnered with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to create the lab school, Academy at Middle Fork.

Lab schools are located in low-performing districts, where a certain percentage of students have not met expected growth and performance in the classroom.

“They asked us to work with Middle Fork Elementary School, which at that time was the fifth-lowest performing school in the state,” assistant dean for the Academy at Middle Fork Robin Groce said.

Groce said RCOE and Middle Fork hired a principal and 29 faculty members, including eight App State graduates, for the 2018-19 academic year.

RCOE directors and faculty created a curriculum for the school with an emphasis on improving literacy.

“Reading is a big part of that curriculum,” Groce said. “They’re reading in science; they’re reading in social studies; they read in math. It’s just a big huge part of the school focus.”

During a winter check-in test for reading and comprehension, individual test scores for fifth graders improved 81% from their individual fourth-grade scores, Groce said.

Along with improving literacy, RCOE strives to provide a learning environment that goes beyond textbooks and into the community. Director of curriculum and instruction, Amie Snow, said she believes this is critical.

“We’ve been able to put in a really positive school culture,” Snow said. “Our classrooms every single day meet together and talk about how to build their community, how to support one another, how to treat each other with kindness and integrity.”    

Middle Fork also provides education majors a chance to observe and train with teachers.

“That kind of real life, hands-on experience is critical for new educators,” Snow said. “It’s important for new teachers to really understand that there’s a lot to being a public school teacher.”

Students at the Academy at Middle Fork not only connect and learn from education majors, but they also see a glimpse of life as a college student from a range of department representatives.

Snow said throughout the year, App State sustainability majors came to speak about recycling, and nutrition majors talked about eating healthy. A cappella groups and student leadership organizations also encouraged Middle Fork students to join clubs like theirs.

“There’s been so many great opportunities like that for the university to be a really important part of what we’re trying to create and for us to give opportunities back to students just as much as they’re giving opportunities to our little Mountaineers,” Snow said.

RCOE plans on developing more growth and opportunity for App State students and Middle Fork students through the school in the years to come.