School accountability and test results for 2018-19 were released earlier this month.
School A-F grades showed an increase in the number of low performing schools while End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) were yet again mainly stagnant or falling.
A-F School Grades
The A-F school scores are on a 15-point system with weighted calculations of students grade-level proficiency and school growth.
80 percent of a school’s grade comes from overall grade-level proficiency of students in EOG and EOC tests. School growth is weighted at 20 percent using the state’s statistical model system known as the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), which compares a student’s predicted test score to the student’s actual test results.
It is important to remember what these letter grades mean.
The original A-F score was made up of what one would expect to be traditional A-F number scores, with an A being 90-100, B being 80-89 and so on. But they aren’t and have not been since around the middle of former Governor Pat McCrory’s term.
After pressure from school officials and advocacy groups around the state that the traditional score was ‘unfair’ and did not take into account socioeconomic factors, the scale was altered to the watered-down version below:
There was some uproar earlier this year when the legislature moved to pass a bill making the above scoring system permanent. It seems the vast majority of the population did not realize that NC schools had been operating under the watered-down version. The outrage was palpable and even made national news.
More than one out of five NC public schools were classified as “low-performing” and eight more schools received a D or F grade this year over last year;
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 actual numbers are 436 in 2017-18 to 423 in 2018-19.
The press release from DPI says that “the percentage of schools earning As and Bs increased to 37.3% from 35.6% during the 2017-18 school year.”
That’s a small shift of 1.7% and overall roughly only a third of all public schools received an A or B grade.
The majority of NC Public Schools, 41.17%, received a grade of C, which is a score of 55-69 and, under a normal A-F scale, would be considered failing. This is, however, a small decrease from 42.45% in 2017-18.
- 1,595 (62%) schools out of the 2,453 total number of schools in NC received a C or lower.
- 1,342 (67.6%) of the 1,945 elementary & middles schools scored a C, D or F.
- 850 (67.56%) of the 1,258 elementary schools scored a C or lower.
- 492 (71.62%) of the 687 middle schools scored a C or lower.
- 253 (42.3%) of the 598 high schools scored a C or lower.
Here’s what that looks like visualized
Dr. Terry Stoops analyzed how traditional district schools and public charter schools stacked up in grades, growth and test scores.
“As in the past, there were higher percentages of charter schools with A and B grades compared to districts,” Stoops writes. “On the other hand, there are higher percentages of charter schools at the other end of the grading scale.”
Dr. Stoops has a comparison chart near the bottom of the article that is worth exploring. Bear in mind, some of the low-performing charters may be relatively new. I’ve noticed a trend that it can take a few years to ramp up student achievement.
The number of continually low-performing public charter schools increased by 10, from 28 in 2017-18 to 38 in 2018-19. Bear in mind, there are 196 public charter schools.
Traditional district public schools have held an average academic proficiency score of 56.1% while public charter schools have a proficiency score of 66.7%.
Acronyms used related to testing will include GLP = Grade Level Proficiency and CCR = Career and College Ready. It will also refer to the 1-5 proficiency scale below:
Level 1: Limited Command
Level 2: Partial Command
Level 3: Sufficient Command (Grade-Level Proficiency)
Level 4: Solid Command (Career and College Readiness)
Level 5: Superior Command (Career and College Readiness)
In a press release, the Dept. of Public Instruction (DPI) warned that math results would be hard to compare to last year because of test changes. Also, DPI said, “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.”
So, it seems that DPI has lumped level one and two together. That shift is utterly unhelpful in determining just how off-track some of our kids are.
The DPI press release also said that the reading and science tests will also use this four-level reporting system in the 2019-20 school year.
Only 45.2% of grade 3-8 students last year were considered CCR by scoring a level 4 or 5 in reading. The Dept. of Public Instruction included level three which makes the CCR score jump up to 57.2%. But that still means that nearly 43% of students are being left behind.
The following charts come straight from the 2018-19 report and show both GLP and CCR reading percentages for grades 3-8 over the last three years. It is very easy to see that after 8 years of Common Core, the needle is barely moving and when it does, it’s often in the wrong direction.
So what does all this mean? Reading scores overall are stagnant – again.
The Dept. of Public Instruction’s report doesn’t say a whole lot about the math scores and one can see why after a closer look.
DPI reports that on the new math tests, 40.9% of students in grades 3-8 statewide scored a level 4 or 5, or CCR; 58.6% scored at the GLP level. DPI did not report on the now combined levels one and two results.
Students scoring level 4 and above increased in all grades except grade 4. The most significant jumps were in 6th and 7th grade. This would be good except when one looks includes level 3 students, scores across the board nosedive with grade 4 coming in last again with an enormous 11 point drop. See the chart below:
Looking at that 11 point drop another way, the GLP is reported is 39.5%, which means that 60.5% of NC students in 4th grade are not proficient at math for their grade level. That is appalling.
The Dept. of Public Instruction’s press release tried to put a positive face on the results when they were released, announcing that “Nearly 75 Percent of Schools Meet or Exceed Growth Goals in 2018-19.” That’s true, but the break down of that 75% isn’t as encouraging.
Table 5 lays out the percentages for each category of growth. Schools that met or exceeded growth expectations had very small gains over the previous year.
The report says that “of the 2,488 schools with both an SPG [school performance grade] and a school accountability growth status, 1,843 (74.1%) met or exceeded growth” and that that of those schools 1,843 schools, “188 (10.2%) earned an A, 651 (35.3%) earned a B, and 749 (40.6%) earned a C, which is an increase of 0.7% from last year.”
Table 8 compares 2017-18 to 2018-19 school A-F grades, showing slight gains in the A-B ranges, but schools scoring in the D-F range is virtually unchanged.
On page 10, growth is broken out by race/ethnicity. There was nothing new or surprising there. Yet again, economically disadvantaged kids doing the poorest across all growth areas.
- Whites (451) surpassed blacks (381) in the area of ‘did not meet growth expectations’.
- Blacks (1174) surpassed whites (1279) in met expected growth.
On the whole, the vast majority of student subgroups in grades 3-8 are not meeting long-term growth expectations in reading and math. High school levels seem to be doing far better at meeting goals in the area of math only.
ACT/Work Keys scores both dropped again for the third year in a row and for the sixth year, the percent of schools implementing and completing a Graduation Project decreased.
I’m not going to get into graduation rates because, as I have previously written, those numbers are a house of cards.