Room to improve

Published 10:40 am Monday, October 26, 2015

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Education met Thursday night to discuss each school’s improvement plans and the superintendent’s plan for district improvement.

Superintendent Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter said Friday that all plans, with some modifications, were approved and would be implemented immediately.

Although the district does not receive a performance composite score as part of the new state grading system that started last year, each school in the district does. The Northampton district is considered by the state as low performing because the schools received either a D or an F on end of year testing.

Woofter pointed out that Northampton has shown good growth over the past year, but the performance grades are still not up to the C level.

The General Assembly and governor imposed the new grading system on schools three years ago, over protests from the state’s educators.

It has a grading formula that weighs growth at 20 percent while actual performance by students is 80 percent to come up with a grade for each school in the state.

Educational experts say the formula should be 50/50 because student growth is better measure for how students are actually doing.

The grades this year for Northampton schools are: Central Elementary – F; Gaston Elementary – F; Gaston Middle – F; Northampton Co. High School – D; Willis Hare Elementary – D; and Conway Middle – F.

Woofter said each school submitted a detailed plan for raising performance on the state tests. After much discussion on the plans and some changes, the BOE approved them.

She said the district is responsible for assisting the schools where needed and for monitoring everything the schools do.

The “Best Practices” model the district is utilizing, Woofter said, should reverse the downward trend and bring student learning, growth, and performance up to state standards.

One of the hindrances to implementing the plans to introduce more rigor and quality to the classroom is the high teacher turnover rate.

Woofter said Northampton County has the highest teacher turnover rate in the state at 33.5 percent.

It’s hard to attract good teachers to the county and experienced teachers are leaving for more lucrative jobs and areas that have more to offer, she said.

When a new teacher comes to the district, they are usually new to the profession and have to learn the accelerated learning plans now employed by Northampton.

Woofter said that about 40 percent of departing teachers are in the Teach for America program and about ten percent left the profession to retire.