Local schools show improvement

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 9, 2004

After years of struggle, a determined effort to improve public education in the Roanoke-Chowan area is making strides.

Late last week, the North Carolina Board of Education released its 2003-04 figures from the &uot;ABC’s of Education&uot; and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Those figures showed an across the board increase in the number of Roanoke-Chowan area public school students at or above grade level in reading and math.

Bertie County Schools topped the local list with seven of its 10 schools meeting expected growth with six of those deemed as schools of high growth.

Additionally, six Bertie schools were able to reach AYP, a much tougher set of standards. AYP, part of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, is divided among a minimum of 13 subgroups. A school must reach its goal in all 13 subgroups in order to obtain AYP status. If only one subgroup fails to meet its goal, then the entire school is not considered to have reached AYP.

&uot;Meeting the AYP goals for the entire year is an honor,&uot; said Brent Todd, Community Schools Coordinator for Bertie County. &uot;It shows the hard work and dedication put forth by the school administrators and faculty who combined their efforts to ensure that our children are receiving the best possible education.&uot;

Askewville Elementary, C.G. White Middle School, J.P. Law Elementary, Aulander Elementary, Colerain Elementary and Windsor Elementary all met AYP. As far as the other Bertie schools were concerned, Southwestern Middle School met 19 of its 21 AYP target goals; 15 of 17 subgroups were reached at West Bertie Elementary and Bertie High School missed only one of their 13 goals.

&uot;When all nine eligible schools are taken into consideration (AYP is a non-factor at the county’s alternative school), 124 out of a possible 129 subgroups met their goals for the year, a staggering 96 percent,&uot; noted Todd.

As far as Bertie’s ABC’s of Education numbers were concerned, the composite performance scores increased at all 10 schools.

Askewville (School of Distinction with High Growth) saw 85.3% of its students at or above grade level in reading and math, up from 80.7% during the 2002-03 reporting period.

Bertie High School (Priority School with High Growth) scored 52.5% in its performance rating, an increase from 50.7%.

C.G. White was also a School of Distinction with High Growth as 82% of its students were at or above grade level. This marks an increase from 73.7% a year earlier. Matching that honor were Aulander Elementary (89.1%, up from 78.5%) and West Bertie Elementary (81.8%).

Colerain Elementary (76.9%) was named a School of Progress with High Growth. Serendipity School (37.1%) met expected growth.

Southwestern Middle (74.3%), J.P. Law (72.3%) and Windsor Elementary (75.8%) failed to meet expected growth.

&uot;We will not rest until all our schools meet expected growth and obtain AYP status,&uot; stressed Todd. &uot;Even then, we still have work left to do because the job of educating our children is never over.&uot;

Todd praised the work of Superintendent John F. Smith Sr. While serving as the leader of Bertie County Schools, Smith has instituted a &uot;Together, We Can&uot; slogan.

&uot;That slogan has come to embody the philosophy that in order for our students to make substantial gains, then it would not be through the efforts of a few,&uot; noted Todd. &uot;Everyone has worked as one, realizing that working behind a closed door will not get the job done. We have worked alongside and with those who have a stake in the education process of our children. Bertie County Schools is moving from good to great.&uot;

In Hertford County, three of the system’s five schools met expected growth.

Ahoskie Elementary (with 78.4% of its students at or above grade level in math and reading, up from 76.3% during 2002-03) was deemed a School of Progress.

While its performance composite score was down to 39.9% (from 46.8% a year earlier), Hertford County High School still met expected growth.

Bearfield Primary also met expected growth. Its performance score is not rated due to being a pre-K through second grade school.

Hertford County Middle School (68.6%) and Riverview Elementary (71.5%) failed to meet expected growth.

&uot;We are excited about the growth that our children are making as indicated by the state assessment scores,&uot; said Dennis Deloatch, Superintendent of Hertford County Schools. &uot;Although all of our schools did not make the state expected growth, the data shows all schools are improving from the last several years.&uot;

Deloatch pointed to increases in math and reading proficiency over the past two years. That increase is as high as 24 percent in some cases (3rd grade math was 51% grade level in 2001, now it’s 75 percent). Seventh grade reading is up by nearly 20 percent (55% to 73%) while sixth grade math has increased by 10 percentage points (69% to 79%).

Two Hertford County public schools achieved their AYP goals – Ahoskie Elementary and Bearfield Primary.

Even though only two schools met AYP, Deloatch said that the others were making great strides in meeting their target goals. For example, the achievement gap in 2000 between whites and blacks stood at a difference of 23.8%. That number has now fallen to 14.1%. In 2000, HCPS female students were outperforming the males in the classroom by 10.8%. Currently, that figure is reduced by more than 50 percent (5.3% difference).

&uot;Overall, I am not happy that all of our schools did not make AYP or were not classified as Schools of Excellence,&uot; noted Deloatch. &uot;But when we look at the data over a period of time, I am happy to know that our schools are making growth, that the gaps are decreasing, that more and more of our schools are making AYP, that we’re getting close to Schools of Distinction and, most importantly, that more and more of our children are becoming proficient in both reading and math than ever before.&uot;

Highlighted by an awesome performance from the students at Jackson-Eastside Elementary, the Northampton County Public School system can boast of seven of its 10 schools meeting expected growth under the ABC’s of Education.

With a 10 percent increase (now at 92%) in its reading and math scores, Jackson-Eastside was hailed as an Honor School of Excellence, the highest rating in the state. It was also named as one of the 25 Most Improved Schools in North Carolina.

Also reaching lofty heights were Seaboard-Coates Elementary (80.2% composite score, up from 73.5%) and Willis Hare Elementary (88.2%, an increase from 85.8%). Both were named as Schools of Distinction.

Gaston Middle School (78.4%, up from 69.5%) and Squire Elementary (77.3% from 67.7%) were honored as Schools of Progress.

Both high schools – NCHS-East (56.5%, an increase from 39.6%) and NCHS-West (49.8%, up from 47.8%) – showed marked improvement. Both were named as Priority Schools with High Growth.

Conway Middle School (77.1%), Garysburg Elementary (80.9%) and Rich Square-Creecy Elementary (74.1%) failed to meet expected growth.

With the exception of Conway Middle and NCHS-East, the rest of Northampton County schools met their AYP targets for 2003-04.

&uot;The improvement in our school system continues to be steady and focused,&uot; said Northampton Superintendent Dr. James Pickens. &uot;We’re proud of the growth we’ve seen, but we’re still not satisfied.&uot;

Dr. Pickens said that research into what works and what does not is the key to overall improvement.

&uot;We will continue to promote the methods that work,&uot; he stressed. &uot;We saw that with the ABC scores at Northampton-East. Last year they were categorized as a low performing school and this year their scores reflect nearly a 20 percent increase.&uot;

As a low performing school, NCHS-East was aided by the help of a state assistance team. Pickens praised the efforts of that help, but also said he was proud of the way the students, staff, parents and the community rallied behind NCHS-East.

&uot;That effort was truly instrumental in their success,&uot; he said.