SCS cites absenteeism, teacher turnover, pandemic for students’ low grade-level proficiency

Published 1:53 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

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By Chris Miller, for the SNAP

A little less than half of all Stanly County students achieved grade-level proficiency according to new state testing data released this week, while about 45% of the district’s schools met or exceeded growth.

The 48.3% proficiency rate is 5% lower than the statewide rate, though it is slightly higher than in 2021-22, when the district had a rate of 47.4%. It is still better than the 2020-21 pandemic year, when 41.1% of students obtained proficiency.

The data includes End-of-Grade and End-of-Course combined test results.

“Stanly County Schools’ mission is to provide the highest quality educational experience for all students,” Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis told The Stanly News & Press. “While there are opportunities for improvement in some areas, we are grateful for the gains and celebrations that show the hard work happening in the classrooms by students and teachers.

“Evaluation of true student achievement cannot always be quantified by the simplified metrics for which we are currently being assessed,” Dennis added.

Of the district’s 22 schools included in the data, seven, or 32%, exceeded growth in 2022-23. Another three schools met growth last year.

That is down from in 2021-22, when 17 schools met or achieved growth.

Thirteen of the district’s schools improved their grade-level proficiency scores, with Millingport Elementary leading the pack. The school increased its proficiency by 12% from 58.8% in 2021-22 to 70.5% last year.

Several other schools posted growth rates at or above 5% including Albemarle High (+9%), North Stanly High (+6.1%), Richfield Elementary (+5.7%), Stanly Early College High (+5.6%) and Stanly STEM Early College (+5.6%).
The state also issues A-F letter grades to individual schools and reports whether they met academic growth targets. The school grades are based 80% on pass rates on exams and 20% on growth on tests.

Stanly Early College High and Stanly STEM Early College received the only A grades, the same as the year before. Locust Elementary, Millingport and Oakboro Choice STEM received B grades.

Eleven schools had failing grades, which was the same number as in 2021-22. SCS had two F grades last year after not having any in 2021-22.

Seven of the 11 schools that received the poor grades are also Title 1 schools, meaning they have large populations of students living at, near or below the poverty line.

Dennis said the district’s lowest performing schools “have some of the highest rates of absenteeism of both students and teachers, as well as high teacher turnover and vacancies, which all have contributed to increased difficulty in the time of recovery at these schools.”

These schools are also focusing on foundational building blocks, including improving literacy and math competency, Dennis said, “in order to continue building proficiency skills in areas that were impacted during the modified instructional schedules throughout the pandemic.”

The four-year graduation rate for SCS high school students was 85.4%, one percentage point less than the statewide rate and almost 6% lower than the district’s graduation rate in 2021-22, which was 91%.

Dennis said the district was excited that three schools — Stanly Early College High, Stanly County Virtual Education and South Stanly High — had a graduation rate greater than 90%.

For Gray Stone Day School, 78.2% of students were grade-level proficient in 2022-23, down from 80.8% the year before.

The school received a B grade, the same as in 2021-22, and it did not meet growth. The four-year graduation rate was 91.6%.

“Our scores have definitely improved this year and I am very proud of the hard work from both students and teachers,” said Helen Nance, chief administrative officer for Gray Stone. “These scores are based on state tests and only show part of the overall picture for a school. There are so many other tests and programs that prepare students for life beyond school.”

Chris Miller is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.