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SCS scores 5 Bs, 6 Ds on school report cards

Stanly County Schools posted five grades of B on its school report card only for any celebration to be doused by six grades of D, including a low performing mark for the debut of Oakboro Choice STEM School.

The grades of B are the most SCS posted in the last four years just as the marks of D are the most during the same period. In addition to the grades of B, Stanly Early College repeated its superiority with the district’s only grade of A. Also, the previous year’s four low-performing schools, or scores of D, all improved their respective grades to a C.

Three of last year’s low-performing schools that improved were in Albemarle.

Glenda Gibson

“I am proud of all of our schools. However, I am extremely proud of our schools within the city of Albemarle,” said Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Glenda Gibson. “These schools have made significant gains in student achievement. I praise not only the administrators, teachers, staff and students, but I admire the community support that has been given to these schools.”

Half of the system’s schools met or exceeded growth expectations with the other half failing to meet the benchmark.

SCS Superintendent Jeff James prefaced his input on the test results by first putting the state’s methodology into perspective.

“The A-F grading system simply cannot capture all the great things our students do and the teachers that help inspire the rising youth of our next generation,” he said. “The grading system, adopted years ago based on Florida’s system, simply tells the general public where poverty exists.”

Gibson echoed similar sentiment, adding the annual scores do not reflect the actual challenges facing school children.

“How does a school letter grade provide information on children who come to school daily after being bounced around from household to household the night before or that come to school hungry every day because they have had nothing to eat since lunch the previous day?” Gibson said.

Wednesday the N.C. Department of Instruction released its annual School Performance Grade accountability measurements for the 2017-18 school year. Nearly three-fourths of the state’s schools met or exceeded expectations for academic progress. About 22 percent of the schools identified as low performing, earning grades of D or F.

It should be noted, however, because of changes to the state’s accountability measurements required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, school grades, growth results and graduation rates for the 2017-18 school year are not comparable to past performances.

Schools are now accountable for the progress of non-English speaking students and also subject to a number of other changes affecting School Performance Grades, growth calculations and the graduation rate.

School Performance Grades are assigned using a weighted formula of 80 percent achievement and 20 percent growth.

School grades continue to correlate closely with the poverty levels of schools.

Performance of individual students on state end-of-grade and end-of-course exams used to calculate Grade Level Proficiency (GLP) and College and Career Readiness (CCR) are unchanged from past years.

Stanly’s Early College continues to be the system’s academic beacon. Along with its lone grade of A, it boasted a 4-year cohort graduation rate greater than 95 percent. At 86.1 percent, it also earned the highest average for academic assessments for reading and math with its End of Grade and End of Course scores.

“Stanly Early College again earned a school performance grade of A for the fourth time out of five years,” James said.

The high schools of South Stanly, North Stanly and West Stanly all posted grades of B.

“West Stanly High School earned a B for the second year in a row, and North and South Stanly earned a B for the first time,” James added. “Albemarle High School had significant improvement with increasing school performance grade from 49 during the 2016-17 school year to 58, earning an SPG grade of C.”

South Stanly enjoyed the highest graduation rate in the district.

Jeff James

“Four-year cohort graduation rate increased, the highest ever for Stanly County, to 88.7 percent and higher than seven of the nine surrounding counties,” James said. “While the state lost ground this year in cohort graduation rate, SCS went up.”

Other schools in the district earning a grade of B include the elementary schools of Aquadale and Badin.

Badin was one of three schools exceeding school growth. East Albemarle Elementary and West Stanly Middle schools, both scoring grades of C, were the other two. WSMS showed the greatest amount of growth in the district with an index of 4.12.

“West Stanly Middle School exceeded growth for five years in a row and had the highest growth in the county,” James said.

“Both inner city elementary schools came out of low performing,” he added. “Badin and East Albemarle exceeded growth, and three met growth. Badin exceeded in reading growth index, as well as Central East, and Stanfield exceeded in math growth index.”

Eight schools garnered a grade of C, which has been the district’s prevailing mark in recent years. The other six schools with the middle grade include: Albemarle High, Central, Locust, North Stanly Middle, Richfield and Stanfield.

All six of the schools that scored a grade of D posted higher marks during the previous year. They include: Albemarle Middle, Endy, Millingport, Norwood, South Stanly Middle and Oakboro.

Oakboro, which reopened last year as a Choice STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for grades K-8, posted the greatest disparity in the school growth index with a minus 7.91. Another distinction for the inaugural STEM school includes its end of grade score in the subject of science. Oakboro scored 40.8 — 13 percentage points lower than the next nearest score.

However, James called for more patience with the new school.

“Research shows the need for three to five years to develop a new program successfully,” he said. “Oakboro is in its second year and is a different way of teaching and learning we will need to adjust to.”

SCS has partnered with Burroughs Wellcome to provide professional development for staff at Oakboro and will promote the model across the district, James said.

Although the number of low-performing schools increased in SCS, the state experienced a decline in those with grades of D and F.

Both Aquadale and Badin scored above 95 percent in science. WSMS posted the next highest average at 88.4 percent, followed by NSMS at 82.4.

After the Early College, Aquadale posted the highest average for reading and math (EOG and EOC) with a score of 70.7. NSHS edged Badin for the second best average.

In biology, the Early College led the system followed by SSHS, NSHS, WSHS and AHS.

Gray Stone Day School, Stanly’s only charter school which serves seven counties, scored a grade of B. It did not meet its growth expectations while scoring a graduation rate of 93.7 percent.

Districts with low-performing schools are required to develop plans for improvement.

“Over the next few weeks, school improvement teams, along with the central office, will be identifying target areas where growth is needed,” Gibson said.

She also offered advice to state legislators about how to better advance public education.

“The N.C. General Assembly and leaders of education need to provide more resources for teachers — all teachers across the board,” she said. “Stop giving huge amounts of money to companies producing test after test, and fund teacher classrooms and provide what schools need. If that would happen, I believe we could really reap the benefits in student achievement and exceeding yearly growth.”

To view DPI’s data visit http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/reporting/.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.