Schools see improvement in performance grades

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/13/19

Performance grades for Chatham County’s public and public charter schools were released last week, and it was good news for most of them. Ten of the county’s 18 scored public schools received an A or B.

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Schools see improvement in performance grades

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part story about the recently released school performance grades. Next week, the News + Record will explore what schools do with the grades, as well as why several educators believe the way scores are developed should change.

Performance grades for Chatham County’s public and public charter schools were released last week, and it was good news for most of them.

Ten of the county’s 18 scored public schools received an A or B, with the Chatham School of Science & Engineering leading the way with an overall score of 87. Nine schools, including Chatham Central and Northwood High Schools, finished with a B. Six schools received a C, with Chatham Middle School the county’s lone D.

Along with evaluating proficiency on state tests, the grades take into account whether or not the school met, did not meet or exceeded expected growth from the previous year.

Ten of the public schools improved their grades from the 2017-2018 school year, with Horton Middle School, Virginia Cross Elementary School and the Chatham School of Science & Engineering increasing their respective grade by six points each, while Perry Harrison Elementary’s score jumped by four points. Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central High Schools, Bonlee and Moncure Schools and Siler City Elementary School all saw their scores improve as well.

Bennett School and Margaret B. Pollard Middle School’s scores each dropped by four points, while Chatham Middle School, J.S. Waters School and Pittsboro Elementary School each saw slight decreases. Northwood High School and Silk Hope School’s scores remained the same as the previous year.

Chatham County Schools Superintendent Derrick Jordan said the district was “pleased with the results.”

“As I say pretty frequently, we want to celebrate the pieces that were solid and the opportunities for improvement, we want to wrap around those and identify ways to continue pushing us higher,” he said. “There generally is going to be something to celebrate and there must be an opportunity for improvement. Any district that does not latch onto those two notions, I don’t know how they can expect to grow and stretch.”

Three schools — North Chatham, Siler City and Virginia Cross Elementary — each exceeded their expected growth measures, while Bennett, Chatham Middle and Pollard did not meet expected growth. The rest met their expected growth target.

Jordan credited not just the educators but all the work done by the district as part of the growth.

“We believe that the improvements that we’re seeing are indicative of the work that’s going into the instruction in the classroom and the wraparound services that we’re trying to provide,” he said.

The county’s three public charter schools each had scores of 74 or better, with Woods Charter at the top with a 90, two points better than 2017-2018. Chatham Charter scored a 78, a drop of three points from last year, while Willow Oak Montessori’s 74 pushed it five points higher than last year.

According to the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction, nearly 75 percent of the state’s public schools met or exceeded growth goals last school year, and the percentage of schools earning As and Bs grew from 35.6 percent in 2017-2018 to 37.3 percent last year.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson credited educators for the improvements.

“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.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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