09/11/18 — Annual school performance grades released

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Annual school performance grades released

By Sierra Henry
Published in News on September 11, 2018 5:50 AM

While nearly half of Wayne County Public Schools received a D or F from the 2017-18 North Carolina annual school performance grade accountability report, Assistant Superintendent David Lewis said the report might not tell the whole story.

"The letter grade system that the state put in place a few years ago was intended to give parents a very simple, easier answer to the question, 'Is my child in a good school?'" said Lewis, who oversees accountability and information technology for the district.

"That's a very complex question that doesn't have a simple answer."

The state school performance grades are based on overall proficiency rates from the state's standardized end-of-grade tests and student growth during the school year. Eighty percent of a school's grade is based on the percentage of tests earning a grade-level proficient score, while the remaining 20 percent is based on academic growth.

"Right away, you've got a little bit of disparity between how proficiency counts and how growth counts," Lewis said. "The weight is heavily in favor of proficiency and not growth ... One thing that (Wayne County Public Schools) always looks at is not always the proficiency, but the growth.

"We really value academic growth because that's basically trying to answer the question, 'Did a student make a year's worth of progress in a year's worth of school?'"

Low-performing schools are those that receive a school performance grade of D or F and do not exceed expected growth. While the report stated that around 22 percent of North Carolina schools received a D or F statewide, more than 40 percent of Wayne County Public Schools received a low-performing grade.

Despite the fact that more than one third of North Carolina Schools earned As and Bs during the 2017-18 school year, under the state's annual School Performance Grade accountability measurement, Wayne County public schools still has room to improve according to performance results, Lewis said.

Of the 29 public schools in Wayne County, there was little change in the grade assignments, with two A's, no B's, 15 C's, nine D's and three F's for the 2017-18 school year, in comparison to the previous year results of one A, two B's, 13 C's, 12 D's and two F's.

The three Wayne County Public Schools that received an F for the 2017-18 school year were Brogden Middle, Carver Heights Elementary and Dillard Middle School.

Wayne School of Engineering and Wayne Early Middle College both received an A.

Carver Heights Elementary and Dillard Middle School have received Fs from the state's annual school performance grade every year since 2015.

According to Lewis, there are a number of factors that could contribute to a school receiving a low-performance grade, including a high number of students living in poverty. He said that there is a high correlation between North Carolina schools that receive performance grades of Ds and Fs and the number of students living in poverty.

"Generally speaking, the more students from poverty, the more likely they are to score in the D and F range," Lewis said. "We know that students from poverty have more challenges as they move through schools because they are more disadvantaged coming into school to begin with."

"I think that probably is the biggest factor in why we have some schools that seem to be underperforming," Lewis said. "Typically, those are high-poverty schools ..."

North Carolina students who live in poverty tend to have less academic preparation prior to school enrollment, Lewis said. That is why some schools that receive a D or an F from the school performance accountability report often exceed expected academic growth.

"I would say the opposite about growth. There have been multiple studies that have shown that student growth is more of a function that happens in the school building and less about the students' outside life," Lewis said.

"Student growth is really about what's happening inside the school building."

Despite this, only one of the three Wayne County Public Schools that received an F met expected academic growth and only four of the nine schools that received Ds met expected academic growth.

Tamara Berman-Ishee, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that Wayne County Public Schools analyze and collect data on performance, growth, attendance and other key areas to develop a support plan for schools that consistently earn low-performance grades.

"A majority of our low-performing schools have been making slow progress throughout the years," Berman-Ishee said. "Our goal now is to speed up the process."

A support plan unique to each low-performing school will be put into place later this year after all data is analyzed and meetings with principles and key staff members are held.

Lewis said that the school performance accountability grades do not include other factors that might make a school good, such as extracurricular activities and community involvement.

"There are an awful lot of parents who would tell you the good things that their schools have done for their children regardless of what grade appears on that report card," Lewis said. "Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, but I'm not sure that one single letter really paints as complete a picture as we would like.

"I wish there was some other way that we could paint a more complete picture of what goes on in our schools."