Pass or fail?

Published 8:17 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

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Part 2 of a 2-part series

Two local school districts are on opposite ends of the scale when its comes to the “report cards” issued annually by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI).

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.

Three of Northampton County’s seven schools received a different letter grade than last year. Gaston Elementary and Northampton Early College both improved by one letter grade while Conway Middle dropped down to a failing F grade. The following is a brief summary of this year’s performance grades in the district:

Central Elementary: 54 (D grade) – exceeded expectations

Gaston Elementary: 52 (D grade) – met expectations

Willis Hare Elementary: 49 (D grade) – met expectations

Conway Middle: 36 (F grade) – did not meet expectations

Gaston Middle: 37 (F grade) – did not meet expectations

Northampton County High School: 42 (D grade) – met expectations

Northampton Early College: 72 (B grade) – met expectations

Northampton County High School’s four-year graduation rate rose over eight percentage points to 71.8 percent. There was no reported graduation data for the Early College.

“There were pockets of improvement, however, we still recognize we have a way to go. Our focus this year is on being more accountable and on continuous improvement,” said Northampton Superintendent Dr. Pamela Chamblee, who assumed the position as an interim in April and was officially sworn in as the district superintendent in August.

“If you’re going to change the life of a child or have any type of impact on that child, we know that it has to be individualized and targeted,” Chamblee continued. “We’re going to address the specific skill deficits that child has. Everybody doesn’t need the same thing the same way.”

Chamblee outlined several specific strategies to be implemented this school year to improve student education throughout the district. Those include adding more classroom resources, using new lesson plans, holding “leadership bootcamps” to help teachers, and adding “in-school interventions” to address individual student needs during the school day.

Chamblee also mentioned projects such as students keeping journals to pinpoint their “point of confusion” for the subject matter, so teachers will know where exactly each individual is struggling.

The new superintendent also thanked the community, including retired teachers and businesses and parent volunteers, for their continued support.

“This is truly a village effort. We started the school year off great, and we want to maintain this momentum we have going. I am truly optimistic we’re gong to make some gains this year. At the end of the day, it’s about the students that we serve,” she concluded.

On the other end of the grading spectrum, three of Gates County’s five public schools posted a C grade. T. S. Cooper Elementary and Gates County Senior High both dropped down one letter grade from last year’s results while Gatesville Elementary improved by one grade.

The following is a brief summary of this year’s performance grades in the district:

Buckland Elementary: 64 (C grade) – met expectations

Gatesville Elementary: 70 (B grade) – met expectations

  1. S. Cooper Elementary: 51 (D grade) – met expectations

Central Middle School: 60 (C grade) – did not meet expectations

Gates County Senior High: 67 (C grade) – did not meet expectations

The four-year graduation rate for the high school dropped from 93 percent last year to 82.5 percent this year.

Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams praised his teachers for their work in educating students, pointing out their successes in a variety of ways.

“Our educators provide clear learning targets and students understand what it takes to get better and own their learning. Teachers create a culture of redemption,” he said. “Teachers constantly and frequently tweak their lessons in response to how students are doing. Students’ learning needs are more important than lesson plans.”

He also emphasized an important focus on encouraging both teachers and students to ask questions.

Out of 17 school districts in the northeast region of the state, Dr. Williams noted Gates County ranked fifth or above in several subject areas, including Biology, English II, Math 6, Math 7, and Reading 6. When compared to the other school districts in the Roanoke Chowan area as well as Halifax County, the superintendent said Gates County Schools ranked in the top two in every subject except for Reading 4.

“We strive to improve each and every day to provide a first-rate education to our students. This summer our focus targeted instructional insights derived from data. Data analysis is not about numbers; it is all about improving instruction,” he concluded.

NCDPI also provides performance grades for charter schools in the state. The two charter schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area are KIPP Gaston College Preparatory in Northampton County and Three Rivers Academy in Bertie County.

The following is a brief summary of this year’s performance grades for the charter schools:

KIPP Gaston: 63 (C grade) – met expectations

Three Rivers Academy: 19 (F grade) – did not meet expectations

KIPP Gaston reported an improved four-year graduation rate of 91.2 percent.

In statewide statistics, a total of 2,523 North Carolina public schools were graded for the 2018-19 school year. According to the NCDPI press release, approximately three quarters of those schools met or exceeded their expectations for student academic growth. The percentage of schools earning A or B grades improved to 37.3 percent this year.

The statewide four-year graduation rate held steady at 86.5 percent this year. In the Roanoke-Chowan area, only Bertie Early College, CS Brown High, and KIPP Gaston reported a four-year graduation rate above the state average.

There were 487 out of 2,523 schools which were identified as low-performing this year, a number which rose slightly from the previous year.

“Teachers across the state are working hard to ensure that students learn and achieve,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said in the NCDPI press release. “We are making changes in Raleigh to help our students and teachers – with less time spent on testing and more time for instruction, getting money out of Raleigh and into classrooms where it belongs, and a regional support system better tailored to support schools.”

Public school districts across the state receive their performance grades every September from NCDPI. The grades are 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.