PITTSBORO — Chatham County Schools officials shared additional data analysis on statewide test scores Thursday, which show the district improved at a better rate than many schools in the state.
The data from N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction (NCDPI) shows growth for both students and teachers in the district throughout the 2021-2022 school year, despite pandemic declines across the state.
NCDPI defines growth as the positive change in student performance for assessments given during a school year.
Dr. Amanda Moran, the assistant superintendent for academic services and instructional support for Chatham County Schools, presented the data to the Board of Education Thursday. It showed 13 of 19 schools were recognized by the state for meeting or exceeding growth at rates above the state average. Nine of those 13 schools were in the top 50% of growth in N.C., two were in the top 20%, one in the top 10% and one in the top 5%. The following schools were recognized by the state:
• Seaforth High School (top 10% of the state)
• Virginia Cross Elementary School (top 20% of the state)
• Margaret B. Pollard Middle School (top 20% of the state)
• Jordan-Matthews High School
• Moncure School
• Silk Hope School
• Northwood High School
• Bennett School
• J.S. Waters School
• Chatham Grove Elementary School
• Siler City Elementary School
• George Moses Horton Middle School
“This provides great insight into how our students progressed last school year, and we are really proud of their results,” Moran said. “Our educators and administrators did an excellent job helping our students transition back to in-person instruction, and our children rose to the challenge.”
The recently released data also reported 93% of the teachers in CCS met or exceeded growth in tested subject areas, meaning 7% of teachers did not meet growth expectations. Seventy-five percent of CCS teachers met growth in tested subjects. Statewide, 71% of teachers met growth. Seven percent of CCS teachers did not meet growth, compared to 14% of teachers statewide.
The data also showed CCS improvements in most subjects, with 94% of tested subjects showing improvements. The district struggled, however, in Math 1 and 3 (high school math courses), 8th grade science and, most importantly, 3rd grade reading.
Third grade reading levels have long been claimed as the benchmark for lifelong literacy. The district did not meet growth expectations in this subject area, with the current mark around 30% proficiency, an 8% decline since last school year. Statewide, the 3rd grade reading proficiency is just 27%, a decline of 7%.
A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a charitable nonprofit focused on improving educational outcomes, found students who were not proficient in reading by the end of 3rd grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers and less likely to earn a high school diploma. Third grade is the final year children are believed to be learning to read, after which students are “reading to learn.”
Moran and education professionals across the state attribute the decline to virtual learning during critical years of literacy. Students pick up critical reading comprehension skills during 1st and 2nd grade, which many of today’s 3rd graders spent online, which may be why their scores suffered, Moran told board of education members Thursday.
NCDPI data is also broken down into subgroups to account for factors such as race, language and socioeconomic status. CCS had every subgroup meet or exceed growth expectations. Moran said this is the first time this has happened in CCS in at least a decade.
“I am very proud of the work our students and staff are doing here in Chatham County,” said Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson. “Growth is such a key area, as it allows apples to apples comparisons from year-to-year. While proud of the progress of our students, until all students are making progress, and learning and achievement gaps closed, we will always have more work to do. I am proud of the work of our students, teachers and school leaders. ”
• The board unanimously approved ONE Academy, an alternative pathway for students who struggle with traditional schooling. ONE Academy will replace SAGE Academy, which has seen declining enrollment since the Chatham School of Science & Engineering was created on the same campus.
“This proposal not only invigorates the programmatic pieces of SAGE through the establishment of the ONE Academy,” said Tracy Fowler, CCS senior executive director of student services. “It provides a larger umbrella for students who may need a non-traditional pathway to graduation. We want to work to meet the needs of all students who may thrive in a smaller setting where they can receive additional support, individualized learning or a flexible schedule.”
The ONE Academy is planning to open next semester in January with a limited capacity of 20 students. The cost for the startup is $425,000 for a non-traditional pathways coordinator, four core teachers and training to support individualized learning. Jackson said this first year will work as a trial run to see if expanded capacity is needed and to gauge interest.
• A new strings program is also on the way to some CCS elementary schools. The board unanimously approved an afterschool program at Siler City Elementary and Virginia Cross Elementary. The program is a partnership between CCS, Chatham Arts Council and Triangle Youth Music Organization. The 1.5-hour class will take place twice a week at the schools between 3:30 to 5 p.m. with the capacity to teach 25-30 3rd grade students.
The annual cost for the program, including supplies and materials, is $25,000. This cost also includes one teacher for the program and stipends for the music teacher at each school for support. After the item was approved, Jackson revealed the district had secured an anonymous $10,000 donation to purchase the instruments for the students. The program is expected to begin in January.
• The board also approved a Legion Baseball program to take place at Jordan-Matthews High School. Legion Baseball is a summer youth baseball league for 13- to 19-year-olds to participate in the sport locally during the off-season. J-M will allow the team to use the fields during the season in exchange for Post 93 American Legion maintaining the field. CCS board Chairperson Gary Leonard played Legion baseball when he was in high school and said the addition of the league to Siler City would provide an incentive for promising players to stay in the area rather than pursuing travel baseball teams during the summer.
Del Turner was absent from the board meeting due to illness.
The next scheduled Chatham County Schools Board of Education meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12, in the George Moses Horton Middle School multipurpose room. For more information visit www.chatham.k12.nc.us.