Du Bois Integrity Academy opened three years ago in Clayton County. The Kindergarten through fifth-grade public charter school was authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission and uses a blended learning model to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and critical thinking skills. As part of its mission, Du Bois Integrity Academy seeks to prepare college and career ready students who are confident and inquisitive lifelong learners.
Du Bois Integrity Academy is named after W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard University. Dr. Du Bois was also an activist, writer, teacher and sociologist. Educators at the school teach students about the pride and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois as it works to emphasize the overall importance of education.
“Students learn they have to go college,” said Dr. Stephanie Payne, Principal, Du Bois Integrity Academy. “We start talking to them about college as early as Kindergarten. We have college pendants throughout the entire school. It’s a constant reminder to them that we’re not coming to school just to go to school. They’re coming to school to build a foundation.”
Du Bois Integrity Academy is a Title 1 school. Currently, 100 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
During its first year of operation, academics at the school suffered. Students received a 33 on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Dr. Payne said one of the major contributing factors was related to facilities. In its opening year, the school was housed in three different locations while a portion of its current facility was under renovation. She also said a number of resources and books that she ordered did not arrive until months after the school year started due to credit and cash flow issues that many startup charter schools face. After moving all students to its current facility the following year, the school’s CCRPI score more than doubled. In 2018, students at the school received an overall score of 72.8, which surpassed the overall CCRPI performance of the Clayton County School District.
According to Dr. Payne, this year’s success is a result of several years of hard work by the school’s leadership team and the school’s board of directors. After performing at the bottom of the state during its first year of operation, Payne said Du Bois Integrity Academy’s leadership team quickly put together an action plan to improve the scores. The school implemented changes that included common planning time and the addition of academic coaches. The school’s academic coaches work with teachers to examine benchmark and diagnostic data, focus on differentiation in the classroom and assist with driving effective instruction.
“The hard work is paying off, said Dr. Payne. “We’re seeing the results.”
Dr. Payne has worked in public education and Title 1 schools for more than 30 years in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago (pictured on the left). One of the things she likes most about leading a charter school is having the ability to make quick and effective changes that positively impact student performance. Educators on Payne’s staff enjoy being having the flexibility to teach state standards in creative ways in order to drive student success.
This year, Du Bois Integrity Academy hired a STEM coordinator and began working toward state STEM certification. Students plan to participate in the school’s first robotics competition next month in Atlanta.
“We love children and we don’t rest. We eat sleep and drink Du Bois Integrity,” said Dr. Payne. “I’m honored to lead such a committed staff of teachers and assistant principals. And each and every one of our students is like one of my own.”
Dr. Payne says her ultimate goal is to have the school continue to make academic progress and ultimately qualify for a National Blue Ribbon School Award.