The performance of North Carolina public schools ticked up last year on the state’s annual School Performance Grade accountability measurement, with more schools meeting or exceeding expectations for student gains and more schools earning grades of As and Bs.
Accountability results were released this week to the State Board of Education along with the four-year Cohort Graduation Rate for the class of 2019. The four-year rate, tracking students who entered 9th grade in 2015, shows that 86.5% of the cohort graduated last school year.
Approximately three quarters of the state’s 2,523 public schools met or exceeded their expectations for student progress, based on the results of end-of-grade and end-of-course tests in reading and math in elementary schools and English and math in high schools. In addition, the percentage of schools earning As and Bs increased to 37.3% from 35.6% during the 2017-18 school year.
Since 2013-14, when the state started assigning letter grades to schools based on a combination of proficiency and gains on year-end exams, the proportion of schools earning As and Bs has increased by 7.9 percentage points. During those same six years, the percentage of schools with Ds and Fs has fallen by 7.4 points to 21.7% in 2018-19.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson pointed to the gains that North Carolina schools have made since 2014 to underscore how the hard work of dedicated educators is helping many students succeed.
“Teachers across the state are working hard to ensure that students learn and achieve,” Johnson said. “We are making changes in Raleigh to help our students and teachers – with less time spent on testing and more time for instruction, getting money out of Raleigh and into classrooms where it belongs, and a regional support system better tailored to support schools.”
The school grades are based mostly on overall proficiency rates on the state’s standardized end¬of-grade tests, and to a lesser extent, the growth students make during the year, irrespective of performance level. Eighty percent of the grade is for the percentage of tests earning a score considered grade¬level proficient; 20 percent is for growth, measured by a statistical model that compares each student’s predicted test score, based on past performance, against his or her actual result.
In terms of subject-specific performance, 45.2% of students in grades 3-8 statewide scored at a level 4 or 5 in reading, considered to be Career and College Ready (CCR). When students who scored at a level 3 are included also, 57.2% of students in grades 3-8 were considered Grade Level Proficient (GLP).
Because new math tests were given in 2018-19, comparisons to previous years data is limited. In addition, performance on the new math tests is based on four academic achievement levels for last year instead of five: not proficient and levels 3, 4 and 5. The reading and science assessments will also use the four-level reporting system in the 2019-20 school year.
Results on the new math tests showed that 40.9% of students in grades 3-8 statewide scored a level 4 or 5, or CCR; 58.6% scored at the GLP level.
On science end-of-grade tests, administered in grades 5 and 8, students saw the strongest gains, with the percentage of 5th graders at the CCR standard climbing 3 points to 61.9% and 3.7 points at the GLP standard to 72.6%. Eighth graders gained 2.6 points, to 70.2%, on the CCR standard, and 3 points on the GLP standard, to 78.6%.
By the performance of individual grades statewide, eighth graders in 2018-19 made the biggest gain in reading proficiency, with a 1.4-point increase in GLP and a 1-point gain in CCR.
Among high school students, performance improved on the end-of-course exam in Biology, for both the CCR and GLP standards, and on the CCR standard in English II.
Also reported, for the second year, are data on the interim progress that North Carolina schools are making to reach long-term, 10-year goals, a new reporting requirement under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The state has overall goals tracking all students and individual groups of students broken out by race, ethnicity, poverty, language acquisition and learning disabilities. The goals reflect the percentage of students achieving Career and College Readiness (Academic Achievement Levels 4 and 5) on the end-of-grade and end-of-course assessments. The long-term goals are intended to reduce the achievement gap between high-performing and low-performing subgroups. Additionally, 10-year goals for the 4-year cohort graduation rate and English Learner progress were set.
Interim and long-term goals are also set for each school, with their expected progress –interim and long term – based on the state’s rate of improvement.
For the second year of interim goals, in 2018-19, one of 10 subgroups (including all students in all groups combined) met interim progress goals for grades 3-8 reading, and two subgroups met interim goals for English II (10th grade reading). Performance on the Math I assessment (reported for 11th graders) showed that all but three subgroups met interim goals.
In terms of schools and counting the group that includes all students, 23.1 percent of elementary and middle schools met their interim goals in reading and 8.7 percent in math. Among the all-students group in high schools, 26.3 percent met their interim goals for reading and 46.9 percent for math.
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 2018-19, 487 schools were identified as low performing, up from 479 in 2017-18, and nine districts were low performing, up from eight in 2017-18. The number of recurring low-performing schools fell from 436 in 2017-18 to 423 in 2018-19, but the number of continually low-performing charter schools increased from 28 in 2017-18 to 38 in 2018-19.