School Grades Improve, Graduation Rate at Record High, but Challenges Remain as State Releases Accountability Data
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In the fourth year of the state’s A-F grading system, the percentage of A or B schools (35.8 percent) continued to climb and the percentage of D and F schools (22.6 percent) fell compared to the 2015-16 school year, according to school accountability data released today to the State Board of Education. In addition, the state’s four-year high school cohort graduation rate continued its upward trend, moving to 86.5 percent from the 85.9 percent figure from the 2015-16 school year. North Carolina’s public schools have set a record graduation rate for a 12th consecutive year.
School Performance Grades are based 80 percent on the school’s achievement score and 20 percent on students’ academic growth. The only exception to this is if a school meets expected growth but inclusion of the school’s growth reduces the school’s performance score and grade.
A majority (56.5 percent) of the state’s high schools earned a grade of B or better. On the growth metric, elementary schools were more likely to meet growth than middle or high schools; 80.3 percent of elementary schools met or exceeded growth. Elementary and middle schools’ performance grades are based on test scores alone, while high school grades are based on test results, graduation rates, and indicators of students’ readiness for college or a career.
Growth data for the 2,531 schools rated showed little change from the previous year, with the percentage of schools meeting or exceeding growth targets changing from 73.6 percent in 2015-16 to 73.7 percent in 2016-17. The proportion of schools not meeting growth dropped slightly as well. Growth is measured by a statistical model that compares each student’s predicted test score, based on past performance, against his or her actual result.
“It’s great news that the top-line trends are in the right direction. We can all be proud, for instance, that most schools meet or exceed growth,” said Mark Johnson, state superintendent of public schools. “But deeper into the data, the results show stubborn concerns that call out for innovative approaches. It is with innovation and personalized learning that we can transform incremental progress into generalized success.”
School grades continue to correlate strongly with the poverty levels of schools. Among all schools in 2016-17 that received a D or F, 92.9 percent had enrollments with at least 50 percent of students from low-income families. Conversely, among schools that received at least a B, 72.5 percent had enrollments with less than 50 percent of students from low-income families.
“The graduation rate is at an all-time high, and the school letter grades continue to give parents an easy-to-understand way to chart progress and compare schools,” said Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education. “Parents should use the results we released today to learn more about how their children’s schools are doing and to become more involved in helping schools and students succeed.”
Low-performing schools are identified annually as those that receive a School Performance Grade of D or F and do not exceed growth. Low-performing districts are districts where the majority of schools received a School Performance Grade and have been identified as low performing. For 2016-17, 505 schools were identified as low performing and 11 districts were low performing, both up from 489 schools and 10 districts in 2015-16. The number of recurring low-performing schools increased from 415 in 2015-16 to 468 in 2016-17.
NCDPI will continue to serve and support low-performing districts and schools through the creation of a new division combining the Educator Effectiveness and the District and School Transformation divisions.
In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly designed and launched a new strategy focused on improving student outcomes in low-performing schools. The effort, called the Innovative School District (ISD), provides that the State Board of Education will select schools this fall, based on the recommendation of the ISD Superintendent, to be transferred into this statewide school district, which will partner with local schools, districts and communities to engage innovative strategies to drive student achievement.
Once selected, schools in the ISD will be operated by qualified charter or education management organizations for at least five years, with the first schools joining the new district for the 2018-19 school year. To be considered for the ISD, a low-performing school must have a school performance score in the lowest 5 percent of all schools in the state. The list of schools the State Board of Education can consider for the ISD is posted online.
For more information, please contact NCDPI Communications at 919.807.3450.