‘Report cards’ show success and setbacks

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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While students are settling into their studies for the new year, school districts across North Carolina are receiving their “report cards” from the previous year.

The North Caroline Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) released the annual School Performance Grades on Sept. 6, based on data from the 2022-23 school year.

The “report card” system has been in place since the NC General Assembly approved it in 2013. The grades are calculated based on each school’s achievement score (weight of 80 percent) and each school’s academic growth (weight of 20 percent). Achievement scores are based on test results while academic growth results are divided into three categories: exceeded expectations, met expectations, and did not meet expectations.

A numerical grade is determined and then each school is assigned a letter grade based on a 15-point scale.

According to the NCDPI data, many local schools have continued to make improvements since the pandemic interruption. Some, however, were more successful than others. Middle schools, in particular, seemed to struggle the most in the four local districts.

Out of the 26 schools (public and charter) in the Roanoke-Chowan area, D was the most common letter grade received from the 2022-23 results, in line with results of previous years. Three schools received an A grade while three others received a failing F grade.

Ten schools were designated as “low performing” which is defined as schools that receive a performance grade of D or F and do not exceed or meet growth expectations. This is an improvement from 14 low performing schools in the previous year, though many of the schools on the list are considered to be “recurring” low performing schools.

Hertford County and Northampton County were both designated as “low performing” districts according to the NCDPI’s definition. Low performing districts have more than 50 percent of their schools identified as low performing.

Bertie County was considered a “low performing” district last year, but improved enough to be removed from this year’s list.

School performance grades in the Roanoke-Chowan area for the 2022-23 school year are as follows:

Out of Bertie’s seven schools, most received the same letter grades as last year, but Bertie Middle dropped one grade while West Bertie Elementary and Bertie Early College High both improved by one grade. The Early College’s four-year cohort graduation rate also remained high at more than 95 percent. Bertie’s High’s graduation rate was 84.2 percent.

Aulander Elementary: 69 (C grade) – met expectations

Colerain Elementary: 51 (D grade) – exceeded expectations

West Bertie Elementary: 62 (C grade) – exceeded expectations

Windsor Elementary: 54 (D grade) – exceeded expectations

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

Bertie Early College High: 86 (A grade) – exceeded expectations

Bertie High: 52 (D grade) – met expectations

“We are very excited about our accountability results and the progress that we are achieving in our district,” said Bertie Superintendent Dr. Otis Smallwood, who noted that they are still focused on learning recovery efforts due to the pandemic.

Smallwood attributed hard work of students and staff to six out of seven schools meeting or exceeding expectations, with two schools even coming off the low performing list. He also recognized that the data for reading proficiency in grades K-3 increased over 20 percentage points from the previous year, and the district’s combined graduation rate of 89 percent is above the state average.

“We realize that there is still much to do to help students recover from learning loss. However, we are on a positive trajectory and committed to ensuring that students in Bertie have every opportunity and access to experience positive outcomes,” he concluded.

In Gates County, four out of five schools received C grades, with Buckland Elementary improving by one letter grade compared to last year. The four-year graduation rate at the district’s high school was 86.6 percent.

Buckland Elementary: 62 (C grade) – exceeded expectations

Gatesville Elementary: 62 (C grade) – did not meet expectations

TS Cooper Elementary: 60 (C grade) – met expectations

Central Middle School: 49 (D grade) – met expectations

Gates County Senior High: 68 (C grade) – met expectations

“It is important to acknowledge that these grades do not fully reflect the efforts and improvements in student growth and academic success that has been achieved, nor do they reflect the tremendous work and dedication our teachers, staff and administrators put forth on a daily basis to educate our students,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, who serves as superintendent for Gates County Schools.

Williams pointed to gains in multiple areas that indicate positive growth within the district, and noted that standardized tests do not show how many hours teachers spend on lessons and making sure students get the support and care they need. He expressed appreciation for the hard work being done by teachers and staff.

“Education is a continuous journey, and it’s clear that Gates County Schools is dedicated to improving academic outcomes for our students. With continued persistence and dedication, our academic growth continues and our students continue to thrive,” Williams concluded.

Hertford County Schools ranged from high to low across the district, with two A grades and two F grades received. Compared to the previous year, the high school’s graduation rate improved to 73.8 percent. Both the Early College and CS Brown STEM maintained graduation rates above 95 percent.

Ahoskie Elementary: 52 (D grade) – met expectations

Bearfield Primary: 38 (F grade) – did not meet expectations

Riverview Elementary: 42 (D grade) – exceeded expectations

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

Hertford County High: 47 (D grade) – did not meet expectations

Hertford County Early College: 86 (A grade) – exceeded expectations

CS Brown STEM: 88 (A grade) – no expectations data listed

According to a press release from Hertford County Public Schools, the data shows in most grade levels an overall improvement in reading proficiency, including an almost 10 percent increase for 4th grade. Grades 5 and 8 Science also had an overall proficiency improvement. Biology and Math I were also up in this year’s data.

“HCPS acknowledges the complexity of these trends and reaffirms its commitment to continuous improvement,” said Hertford County Superintendent Dr. Jesse Pratt. “These statistics serve as the foundation for ongoing efforts to enhance academic outcomes.”

Pratt, who stepped into the role of superintendent in January 2023, emphasized that the district is steadfast in its mission to provide quality education in an environment conductive to academic growth.

“As we reflect on our progress, we look forward to the future with renewed determination. The journey ahead holds promise, and we remain resolute in our pursuit of excellence in education for all our students,” he stated.

Northampton County showed improvement this year with no F grades for the first time in over 10 years. The Early College, with a graduation rate of more than 95 percent, remained the top school in the district. Northampton County High School’s graduation rate, however, was lower than the previous year at 69.4 percent.

Central Elementary: 43 (D grade) – met expectations

Gaston STEM Leadership Academy: 53 (D grade) – exceeded expectations

Conway Middle: 46 (D grade) – met expectations

Northampton Early College: 74 (B grade) – exceeded expectations

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

Northampton Virtual Academy: Insufficient data

“The latest End of Grade and End of Course test results show significant change in the learning trajectory of Northampton County students. All of our schools either met or exceeded growth,” said Dr. Rosa Atkins, who began her term as the district’s superintendent in Oct. 2022.

Atkins noted that Gaston STEM and the Early College were leading the way in growth, and many schools in the district showed impressive improvements in math and reading. She also added that the results were a testament to the collaborative efforts of teachers, staff, administrators, parents, the School Board, and students. And those efforts will be instrumental as they continue forward.

“While we celebrate these results, we recognize that there is still a great deal of work to be done,” she continued. “We firmly believe that this challenge presents an opportunity for growth and innovation.

“We are on a journey of educational excellence and a path to ensure each student has the tools necessary to thrive during the K12 years and beyond. In Northampton County, ‘we are better together’,” Dr. Atkins concluded.

NCDPI also provides performance grades for charter schools in the state. Locally, the only charter school is KIPP Gaston College Preparatory in Northampton County. The school received a 46 (D grade) and met expectations. The K-12 school had a graduation rate of 83.3 percent, which is slightly higher than last year.

In statewide statistics, the four-year graduation rate was 86.4 percent, the same as it was last year.

There were 804 schools across North Carolina that were designated as “low performing” which is a decrease from 864 last year. The number of low performing districts in the state also dropped from 29 to 25.

Despite the learning disruption in the wake of the pandemic which caused declines in last year’s scores, this year’s results showed strong gains in math and reading.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact of the pandemic, but teachers across North Carolina are working harder than ever to help students recover, and more importantly, advance in their learning,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt in a press release.

“We’ve now seen two consecutive years of gains that were greater than any of the several years preceding the pandemic losses,” she continued. “Students and schools still have a way to go to catch up, but we have good reason to think that progress will continue.”