BEAUFORT — The county school system received mixed news on a state report released Wednesday. The graduation rate was below the state average, while the overall passing rates on standardized tests increased.
All county schools received a passing grade of at least a C for student performance, with Croatan High School the only one receiving an A.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction released results of the Every Student Succeeds Act report Wednesday. The report features graduation rates, overall results of the 2017-18 state end-of-grade and end-of-course exams, as well as other data.
Because of changes in the state’s accountability measurements required this year under the federal ESSA, graduation rates and some of the other performance data isn’t comparable to the previous year, according to the DPI.
The report shows 85.2 percent of county students completed high school in four years or less. That compares to the state average of 86.3 percent.
The graduation rate for each high school was: Croatan High School, 89.7 percent; East Carteret High, 84.5 percent; and West Carteret High, 82.5 percent.
As for the average passing rates for county students on the state’s standardized tests in math, reading and science, those scores rose from 69.4 percent in 2016-17 to 70.4 percent in 2017-18.
For the state, the percentage of students passing the tests decreased from 59.2 percent in 2016-17 to 58.8 percent in 2017-18.
Superintendent Mat Bottoms said in an email statement Wednesday that he was pleased overall with county results, but was concerned about the graduation rate.
“It is important that every student completes his or her high school education, and we will continue to work to increase the graduation rate,” he said.
Schools also receive a performance letter grade based on state end-of-grade reading and math test results for third- through eighth-grade students, and science tests in fifth and eighth grades. It’s also based on results of state high school exams in biology, math I and English II.
Those tests, along with calculations of student growth, are combined to create school performance grades of A-F.
All county schools received a student performance score of C or better, with Croatan High School receiving an A. This is the fifth year the school has received either an A+ or A on the report.
The school’s principal Kay Zimarino credited the hard work of students and staff for the results.
“It’s the ongoing culture of high expectations and we try to create an environment where students can learn and teachers can teach. It’s the consistency and drive of the students to always do their best,” she said.
Tiller School, a public charter elementary school in Beaufort, received a B.
Mr. Bottoms said he was glad to see the district continue to improve in performance scores.
“Our county’s public school students continue to achieve well when compared to school systems across the state. All of our schools earned a C or better, and more than 80 percent of our students met or exceeded the state’s measure for student growth,” he said. “That is a tribute to this public school system’s high achieving students; our dedicated teachers, staff members and administrators; and our strong support received from parents, community members and elected officials.”
School grades statewide continue to correlate closely with the poverty levels of schools, according to a DPI press release about state scores. Among schools last year that received a D or F, 69 percent had enrollments with at least 81 percent of students from low-income families. Conversely, in schools with poverty rates less than 20 percent, only 1.7 percent of schools received a D or F. The report concludes that “schools with lower levels of poverty are more likely to earn As and Bs.”
Low-performing schools are identified as those receiving a D or F and do not exceed growth. For 2017-18, 476 schools were identified as low performing, down from 505 the previous year. There were seven districts considered low performing, down from 11 districts in 2016-17.
The number of recurring low-performing schools fell from 468 in 2016-17 to 435 in 2017-18. Six consistently low-performing elementary or middle schools are being considered for a state takeover next year, according to The Associated Press.
The report also measures the amount of academic growth from the beginning to the end of the school year.
Seven of the 17 traditional county public schools exceeded expected growth, seven schools met expected growth and three schools did not meet expected growth. Those schools are: Morehead City Elementary, Newport Elementary and Newport Middle schools.
The Tiller School also did not meet expected growth.
In addition, the DPI stated the report, for the first time, includes data on the interim progress North Carolina schools are making to reach long-term, 10-year goals, a new reporting requirement under the ESSA. The state has overall goals tracking all students and individual groups of students broken out by race, ethnicity, poverty, language acquisition and learning disabilities.
The goals reflect the percentage of students achieving College and Career Readiness (Academic Achievement Levels 4 and 5) on the end-of-grade and end-of-course assessments. The long-term goals are intended to reduce the achievement gap between high-performing and low-performing subgroups. Additionally, 10-year goals for the four-year cohort graduation rate and English Learner progress were set.
Interim and long-term goals are also set for each school, with their expected progress —interim and long term — based on the state’s rate of improvement.
As to other changes required under the federal ESSA law, the state will also report School Performance Grades for each subgroup within a school when at least 30 students are counted within all tested grades or subjects. Subgroup grades will be reported to the State Board of Education at its Wednesday, Oct. 3 meeting.
To access the 2017-18 report, go to ncpublicschools.org/accountability/reporting/.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.