‘Grading’ success

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The numbers are in for Roanoke-Chowan area schools as far as how they stack up in accountability measures of teaching young people.

As expected, the results, as released by North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI), were varied across the four counties of the Roanoke-Chowan.

Northampton County Schools again saw their accountability standards rank low while their counterparts in Bertie County rejoiced by seeing their public school system removed from the state’s low performing list.

Meanwhile, only one public school in Hertford County failed to meet growth and scored an “F” while all schools in Gates County scored a “C” or higher.

Bertie County’s results for 2015 moved the district off the low performing list. Interim Superintendent Julian Walker joked that he couldn’t take the credit for that, but did give high praise to Bertie County’s staff for their hard work and success.

“They are working smarter and with more focus to help our students grow and achieve more,” Walker said. “Everyone is more data-driven now. Administrators and teachers have higher expectations than ever.”

Walker said they have great attitudes and that over 50 percent of school met or exceeded growth.

“We’ got to keep this torch burning,” Walker said.

Accountability measures for Bertie Public Schools in 2015 were:

Bertie Early College – Grade A – growth met – Four-year graduation rate 90.9 percent – Five-year graduation rate above 95 percent;

Bertie High – Grade D – growth not met – Four-year graduation rate 79.8 percent – Five-year graduation rate 83.5 percent;

Bertie STEM High – Grade B – growth not met – Four-year graduation rate above 95 percent – Five-year graduation rate above 95 percent;

Bertie Middle – Grade D – growth exceeded;

Aulander Elementary – Grade C – growth exceeded;

West Bertie Elementary – Grade D – growth met;

Colerain Elementary – Grade C – growth met; and

Windsor Elementary – Grade C – growth exceeded.

In Hertford County, Schools Superintendent Dr. William Wright said the district’s performance has increased by 6.4 percent.

“Which shows progress,” Wright stated.

He also said more students have been assessed are designated college and career ready.

“We’re excited about our growth,” Wright said.

He said more instructional coaches will be assigned to the middle school and praised Ahoskie Elementary for meeting growth for the first time in three years. He also had high praise for Riverview Elementary for meeting growth for the third year in a row.

“We have a good foundation to build upon,” said Wright. “It reinforces the hard work we’ve put in. We’re moving in a positive direction, but we’re not resting on our laurels.”

Hertford County’s accountability measures in 2015 are:

Hertford County High – Grade C – growth exceeded – Four-year graduation rate 84.4 percent  – Five-year graduation rate 86.8 percent;

Hertford Co. Early College – Grade B – growth exceeded -Four-year graduation rate 94.7 percent – Five-year graduation rate 93.5 percent;

Hertford County Middle – Grade F – growth not met;

Ahoskie Elementary – Grade D – growth met;

Bearfield Primary – Grade C – growth met;

Riverview Elementary – Grade D – growth met; and

CS Brown High – Grade C – growth met.

As is tradition, Gates County’s Schools accountability measures led the region overall.

“We are continually improving to provide the best educational opportunities for the students of our county. While we celebrate successes and capitalize on them we also focus on areas of needed improvement to achieve our goals” noted Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams.

Williams also stressed that Gates County Schools topped the 19 school districts in northeastern North Carolina for End-of-Grade Math scores in Grade 3 and End-of-Grade Reading scores for Grade 7. Overall in grades 3-8 for College and Career Ready, Gates County students ranked 5th among the 19 regional districts and also placed 5th in overall Grade Level Proficiency.

Williams and his instructional team review the data to consistently improve.

“We evaluate EVAAS data, EOG/EOC scores, teacher evaluations and engage in collaborative conversations with principals in order to strategize and make decisions that will help our students,” he said. “We have to experiment and make changes for this to happen; therefore, there are times when we have to make administrative decisions such as transferring and reassigning individuals, adjusting curriculum, evaluating pedagogy and implementing new resources in order to see some progress.”

Accountability measures in 2015 for Gates County Public Schools are:

Gates County Senior High – Grade B – growth exceeded -Four-year graduation rate 87.1 percent – Five-year graduation rate 89.7 percent;

Central Middle – Grade C – growth not met;

Buckland Elementary – Grade C – growth met;

Gatesville Elementary – Grade C – growth met; and

T.S. Cooper Elementary – Grade C – growth met.

Meanwhile, accountability standards in Northampton County continue to lag behind other districts as four of the six schools failed to meet growth.

Northampton County remains on DPI’s list of low-performing schools.

“We’re not where we want to be, but we are making progress,” stated Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter, Superintendent of Northampton County Public Schools.

She said growth may take three years to show up in the proficiency scores and that school grades should be configured differently, an argument frequently used by education experts and by DPI.

The school grades are currently configured with 80 percent of a grade on end of grade or end of course tests. Only 20 percent of a school’s letter grade comes from growth.

Woofter said two failing schools from 2014 almost moved up a full letter grade for 2015, with Willis Hare missing a C grade by only two points. Central Elementary and NCHS also came close to making C grades.

She also noted that while the four-year graduation rate decreased, the five-year graduation increased significantly.

Woofter said Northampton County High School had one of its largest graduating classes in years because the district has been working with students to decrease dropouts and have them increase class credits.

Accountability measures in 2015 for Northampton County Public Schools are:

Northampton County High School   – Grade D – growth not met – Four-year graduation rate 76.4 percent – Five-year graduation rate 94.2 percent;

Central Elementary – Grade D -growth exceeded;

Conway Middle – Grade F – growth not met;

Gaston Elementary – Grade F – growth met;

Gaston Middle – Grade F – growth not met; and

Willis Hare Elementary – Grade D – growth not met.

Statewide, North Carolina students continue to make gains on most measures of student learning with more than 75 percent of public schools overall earning grades of C or better in the third year of the state’s A-F grading system.

Nearly a third (32.7 percent) of the state’s 2,459 traditional public and charter schools with grades for the year achieved ‘A’s and ‘B’s, up from the 29.4 percent that did so in 2013-14, the first year that schools were assigned letter grades. The proportion of schools receiving Ds and Fs fell last year to less than a quarter (23.2 percent) of all schools – a decline of nearly 20 percent among schools with the lowest grades over the last three years, from 707 to 571.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said she was encouraged by the latest data, which she called good evidence that students and schools are making steady progress toward meeting the more demanding standards the state set four years ago with the adoption of its READY accountability system.

“Many schools face significant challenges in terms of critical resources and student needs, but these results show that hard-working educators are making a difference and that students are making gains in their learning,” Atkinson said. “School grades are moving in the right direction, but they continue to underscore the academic challenges faced by many students from disadvantaged families, starting with pre-school. We know schools are helping students make progress, but many schools have large numbers of students who are starting from behind.”

In a press release, DPI said that school grades, required by state law, continue to correlate closely with the poverty levels of schools. Among all schools last year that received a D or F, 93 percent had enrollments with at least 50 percent of students from low-income families. Conversely, among schools that received at least a B, 75.7 percent had enrollments with less than 50 percent of students from low-income families.

The school grades are based primarily on overall proficiency rates on the state’s standardized end-of-grade tests, and to a lesser extent, the growth students make during the year, irrespective of performance level.

Eighty percent of the grade is for the percentage of tests earning a score considered grade-level proficient; 20 percent is for growth, measured by a statistical model that compares each student’s predicted test score, based on past performance, against his or her actual result.

The state’s four-year high school cohort graduation rate, which factors into the letter grades for high schools, continued its upward trend for the class of 2016, reaching a new high 85.8 percent. On state exams, the percentage of students proficient in math and science improved across all grades in elementary, middle and high school; reading and high school English performance was more mixed.

Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education, said that the latest accountability results reflect a clear focus on a set of goals aimed at ensuring students finish high school well prepared.

“North Carolinians should feel confident that their public schools continue to improve and rise to the higher expectations for college and career readiness that the board set beginning with the 2012-13 school year,” Cobey said.