Pass or fail?

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Part 1 of a 2-part series

School districts across the state receive their performance grades every September from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). Each public and charter school receives a “report card” with a grade ranging from A to F, and schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area saw a mix of improvements and setbacks for the 2018-19 school year.

NCDPI calculates the grades based 80 percent on the school’s achievement score and 20 percent on students’ academic growth (measured in three categories: exceeded expectations, met expectations, and not met expectations). The letter grades are based on a 15-point scale, a system that has been in place since the 2013-14 school year.

Out of the 28 schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area—including two charter schools—D was the most common grade received based on results from the 2018-19 school year. Like the previous year, only two schools managed to attain an A grade. Four schools received a failing F grade.

Thirteen schools were labeled as “low performing” which is defined by NCDPI as schools that receive D or F grades and do not exceed academic growth expectations. Of those 13, 10 schools are on the “recurring low performing” list which means they were low performing in at least two of the last three years.

Northampton County Schools qualified as a “low performing” district once again by NCDPI standards by having a majority of schools (5 out of 7, or 71 percent) labeled as low performing. Nine school districts in North Carolina were labeled as “low performing” this year, up from eight districts last year.

School performance grades varied from county to county.

Among Bertie County’s seven schools in the district, only West Bertie Elementary received a different grade than the previous year, dropping from a C to a D. The following is a brief summary of this year’s performance grades in the district:

Aulander Elementary: 59 (C grade) – met expectations

Colerain Elementary: 60 (C grade) – exceeded expectations

West Bertie Elementary: 54 (D grade) – met expectations

Windsor Elementary: 59 (C grade) – exceeded expectations

Bertie Middle: 50 (D grade) – did not meet expectations

Bertie Early College High: 88 (A grade) – exceeded expectations

Bertie High: 50 (D grade) did not meet expectations

The four-year cohort graduation rate at Bertie High dropped to 73.3 percent, while the Early College maintained a rate greater than 95 percent.

A press release from Bertie County Schools recognized achievements in the district such as Bertie Early College High receiving an A grade and exceeding growth for the second year in a row, and Aulander Elementary exceeding growth expectations and showing an increase in grade level proficiency compared to the prior year.

The district also acknowledged areas which needed improvement. According to the press release, overall grade level proficiency for the county showed a slight decrease from the previous year, dropping down less than a full percentage point to 46.6 percent. Only Aulander and Colerain Elementary Schools saw an increase in grade level proficiency this year.

Testing and Accountability Director Eva White noted that a new math assessment was introduced during the year, and “each time there is a new assessment, there is a dip in scores.”

Dr. Otis Smallwood, the recently sworn-in new Bertie County Schools Superintendent, stated in the release, “We anticipate that consistency in leadership both at the top and at the school level, over time—combined with a renewed priority of laser-like, data driven instruction for every child—will bring everything back up and beyond in the coming years.”

“We look forward to what changes will come about from a renewed focus on teaching and learning, building and sustaining relationships among all stakeholders,” he continued, “as well as supporting the staff we have by providing effective and meaningful professional development. When the pieces fit together, we will be able to keep the best right here in Bertie.”

“It’s not a matter of getting the right program to educate our kids. It’s about attracting and retaining the right people,” Dr. Smallwood concluded.

This year, Hertford County Schools had one school which improved its grade and two which dropped down a grade. Hertford County Middle improved to a passing D grade this year, while Hertford County High dropped to a D and Ahoskie Elementary received a failing F grade. The following is a brief summary of this year’s performance grades in the district:

Ahoskie Elementary: 39 (F grade) – did not meet expectations

Bearfield Primary: 68 (C grade) – met expectations

Riverview Elementary: 51 (D grade) – did not meet expectations

Hertford County Middle: 45 (D grade) – exceeded expectations

CS Brown High: 85 (A grade) – met expectations

Hertford County Early College: 84 (B grade) – exceeded expectations

Hertford County High: 52 (D grade) – did not meet expectations

Hertford County High’s four-year graduation rate dropped to 74.7 percent from 81.6 percent last year, while CS Brown High maintained a graduation rate greater than 95 percent. No graduation rate data was provided for Hertford County Early College.

Dr. William Wright, Superintendent of Hertford County Schools, recognized the improvements over the past year and also acknowledged areas which still needed more focus.

“For Bearfield [Primary], they have grown 20 percentage points in the last two years, which is outstanding. Riverview [Elementary] has grown by 10 percentage points in the last two years,” he explained.

He also noted that the Early College High School and Hertford County Middle School both exceeded growth expectations, and CS Brown High School worked hard to maintain their A grade.

“We are ramping up the amount of instruction that our children receive at all of our schools, but particularly those schools where we saw dips in achievement or even if they just maintained levels,” he continued.

“Hertford County Schools have suffered tremendously in terms of math the past few years,” Wright said.

As a part of their strategy to combat that issue, he said they had received a grant to add a STEM lab to the middle school, and they also will be offering more math classes to freshmen at all the high schools this year.

Wright also mentioned several other strategies the district is implementing to improve student achievement.

“We’re excited about the success we are having, but we’re not resting on that success. We’re using that to build upon. We know that we have people in our district that are working diligently every day to improve outcomes. I’m appreciative of that,” he concluded.

See Part 2 of the series in Saturday’s edition, which will focus on the report cards for Northampton County and Gates County schools.