In a year of toggling back-and-forth between in-person and remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of Stanly County Schools students failed state exams for the 2020-21 academic year, according to results released by the state on Wednesday.
The new state test results show that only 41.1 percent of SCS students passed state reading, math and science exams during the 2020-21 school year — much lower than in previous years. For the 2018-2019 school year, 57.5 percent of all SCS students passed their exams. There is no data for 2019-2020, since end-of-year testing was waived due to the onset of the pandemic.
The proficiency rate was 40.9 percent for the exams given to elementary and middle school students and 42.1 percent for tests given to high school students — much lower than the 2018-2019 scores, which were 58.8 percent and 52.1 percent, respectively.
The tests results will likely not be surprising as students missed significant time away from in-person learning, with many struggling with online learning due to lack of reliable internet access across the county.
The new data reinforces the notion by some that in-person learning is essential for students in making sure they are staying on grade level and not falling behind. To help combat learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SCS conducted a six-week summer learning program for struggling students.
The struggles though were not confined to just Stanly County Schools. Only 45.4 percent of students statewide passed state reading, math and science exams during the 2020-21 school year, compared with 58.8 percent of students in 2018-2019.
Other local districts, including Anson, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Montgomery and Rowan-Salisbury, also had a majority of students not pass state exams.
Not all SCS students struggled at the same rate when it came to testing. Whereas 46.6 percent of all white students achieved proficiency, only 37.9 percent of Hispanics and 18.9 percent of Blacks hit the mark. Those percentages are down considerably compared to 2018-2019.
The group that performed the best were the “Academically or Intellectually Gifted” students, of which 89.2 percent passed their exams.
Composite test scores for all exams for each of the district’s 23 schools, along with Gray Stone Day School, show that a much lower percentage of students achieved grade level proficiency — defined as level 3 or above — last year compared to the 2018-2019 school year. Most of the gaps were quite large — at least 15 percentage points for most schools, with a few approaching 30.
A proficient rating means students have demonstrated “competency over challenging subject matter.”
The two public schools that performed the best were Stanly Early College High, with 79.3 percent of students proficient in all subjects, and Stanly STEM Early College, where 76.2 percent of students were proficient in all subjects. Gray Stone came in at a close third at 75.5 percent.
“Our teachers worked really hard to provide a strong academic opportunity for our students through face to face meetings with students on the computer as well as through technology platforms such as Canvas,” Gray Stone Chief Administrative Officer Helen Nance said. “Gray Stone students were very conscientious and came to their classes virtually every day.”
The SNAP also reached out to SCS about its test scores. No comments were available as of publication.
Eighteen of the district’s schools had proficiency ratings for all subjects of below 50 percent, though a few, like Badin Elementary at 49.2 percent, came close. During the 2018-2019 year, by comparison, 17 schools had ratings at or above 50 percent.
Less than five percent of elementary and middle school students across the district did not take the state exams, a better percentage than the seven percent of elementary and middle school students statewide that did not take the exams.
The results did not include the A-F school performance grades and growth scores that have been used in the past.