Congratulations to Carteret County teachers, administrators and students on the recent report showing that graduation rates in the county’s schools are on the rise and that the county’s scores for students taking the SAT were higher than both the state and national average. Unfortunately, while the graduation rates are trending in the right direction, there should be concern about the SAT scores, which when compared to previous years are trending in the wrong direction- down.
The report notes that the county’s SAT averages were higher than state and national averages but that is of little comfort considering they were below the previous year’s (2018-19) school year numbers.
Granted, students, teachers and parents were disrupted last spring by the sudden closure of schools due to the pandemic resulting in students and teachers having to work remotely for the last semester of the school year. That disruption also altered both school exams, AP exams and the SAT’s.
N.C. Department of Public Instruction State Superintendent Mark Johnson commended students for performing as well as they did in spite of the interruption and stress caused by the closure of schools during the spring semester of the 2019-20 school year. But that argument would hold true for the previous year as well with the only difference being that the interruption for the 2018-19 school year occurred in the fall as a result of Hurricane Florence, which devastated Carteret and surrounding counties only a few weeks into that school year.
That hurricane was, in many cases, more disruptive than the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the county, teachers and students experienced major damage to their homes which in some cases required long term relocation for housing. Not only were teachers and students missing school, they were also dealing with the personal trauma of damaged or lost homes and interruptions to their daily lives.
It is worth noting that because of former Carteret County Schools Superintendent Mat Bottoms’ quick action students and teachers were back in their classrooms only four weeks after the hurricane passed. Many other schools in the region were months delayed in getting back to normal. But even after classes resumed, the impacts of hurricane Florence were felt for the entire school year and beyond.
The public schools are now navigating the concerns of parents, teachers and some students as they deal with the fear of coronavirus contagion. Students are either taking their classes remotely on a full-time basis or working on a hybrid schedule with two days in the classroom and the remaining three days working remotely. In either case, students are not getting the full educational experience due to the fluidity of the classroom environment and teachers are not able to fully observe their student’s interest or failings.
Regardless of the circumstances, the issue remains that students and teachers are dealing with a new educational environment. This new environment requires assessment and, if needed, a means for remediation. The recent decline in SAT scores indicates that there has been a decline in both the education provided and information retained.
There are cynics who will note that the College Board, the not-for-profit organization responsible for the development and administration of the SAT and AP exams, could adjust both the tests and grades to accommodate the abilities of the students taking the test as has happened in the past. Considering the impact of the pandemic on education nationwide this grade and test adjustment might occur again. But the recent results when compared to both previous years and circumstances are heading in the wrong direction and that should worry us all.
As parents assess the previous year’s numbers and watch as their children struggle to work in the new educational environment they may begin to wonder why they are supporting a system that isn’t responding to a new paradigm. That paradigm involves remote learning which is becoming more the norm rather than unusual.
But the fact remains, county students are losing ground academically as noted by the recent SAT scores and accommodations need to be made to correct the course for those students falling behind and to better use all the educational facilities imaginatively.