Schools work their way off state’s ‘low performing’ list

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Since 2015, Brogden Primary School, Carver Elementary and Mount Olive Middle have spent time on North Carolina’s “low performing” schools list. This year, those schools are off the list.

In the 2018-19 academic year, each of the educational institutions showed an increase in end of grade scores with Mount Olive Middle showing the highest growth among Wayne County Public Schools, according to the 2018-19 Accountability and School Performance Grades Report released by the district.

Just one year after being put on the low performing list, Mount Olive Middle worked hard to be removed. But the school found itself in an undesired cycle as it remained on the list for the next two years.

“By definition, a low-performing school is a school that received a school performance grade of D or F, and did not exceed growth,” said Wayne County Public Schools Communications and Public Relations Officer Ken Derksen.

Carver Heights, a school that was seen as one of the lowest performing schools in the state and was under threat of a state takeover experienced the highest increase of improvement this past school year. According to the 2018-19 Accountability report, Carver Heights experienced an 11.6 point increase in EOG composite scores (third highest increase by a WCPS elementary school in the report), a 9.3 increase in EOG reading scores (highest increase by a WCPS elementary school in the report), a 26 increase in EOG science scores (highest increase by a WCPS elementary school in the report), and a 14 point increase in school performance grades. Carver Heights moved from an F letter grade to a D.

Brogden Primary finished last academic year with an 89.9 percent growth conversion, which was fourth out of the nine schools in the state’s latest “exceeded growth category.”

“While much credit goes to the school for its success this past school year, I would be remiss if I did not again extend my gratitude to Rep. John Bell, Sen. Don Davis, Rep. Raymond Smith and the many other members of the North Carolina General Assembly for their efforts to implement legislation that ultimately resulted in Carver Heights Elementary remaining under local control. That single piece of legislation gave the North Carolina Board of Education the flexibility and opportunity to show their unanimous support of our district’s restart efforts that had been put in place and were well underway,” Derksen said. “More importantly, it instantly settled any uncertainties and concerns about the school’s future, allowing students, staff and the school community to remain focused in its resolve to increase learning and performance. While there is still much heavy lifting to be done, we congratulate Dr. Faison and her staff for their herculean efforts in accomplishing such significant growth and progress in a short time.”

What can be accredited to the growth?

“Our school leaders have also benefited from training and working with data, learning how to identify strengths and weakness and trends in classrooms. They are helping teachers analyze data as well, and leading conversations about how to apply effective strategies to address areas of need,” said Tamara Berman-Ishee, assistant superintendent for WCPS’ Curriculum & Instruction. “Our administrators and teachers are getting better at this, and as a result, they are being more effective in helping students to achieve.”

“We are also trying to apply innovative research-based strategies, and bring in new initiatives that appear to show promise,” she said. “We don’t always do this perfectly, however. There is actually no other effective way for us to proceed if we want to get results, than to try things that we have not done before. Our approach in coaching and allowing new and veteran staff members the latitude to bring their innovative ideas to life, seems to be working. At the same time, we have tried to pare down and streamline our initiatives, and focus on four important key areas: rigor; technology integration for instructional enhancement; a multi-tiered system of support; and student mental health needs and staff training. We will be even more intentional and focused on these four areas in the coming year.”

How does the board plan to maintain the educational growth?

“The board is monitoring efforts by the Curriculum & Instruction department to provide targeted services and support to all WCPS schools, including the low performing schools, and those newly out of low performing status,” Berman-Ishee said. “The C&I department reorganized during the past year, creating a ‘super core’ cohort of teacher-coaches who continue to develop and refine curriculum resources and do work with teachers on common formative assessments, working with data to inform instruction, and increasing rigor in core academic areas. Board members are also instrumental in working with state leaders to advocate for WCPS schools and programs. WCPS leaders have shared with board members that they are already building on the momentum created last year, and they are working hard and smart to keep improving our schools and making a quality education accessible to every one of our students.”

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