The state wants public opinion on school performance grades

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is asking the public to provide feedback on how it determines the grades for academic performance that are issued each year.

AF grades were established to reflect academic performance as measured by student scores on state end-of-year and coursework tests. Grades are heavily weighted based on student success on these tests versus academic growth.

Many critics, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, would like to see this formula changed, saying it does not accurately reflect the quality of the school.

“Academic performance ratings are really about school quality, but right now the model places too much emphasis on student test scores without considering the other ways schools prepare students for post-secondary success. “, Truitt said in a press release Thursday. “The model should incorporate other important measures – not just high-stakes student testing – to redefine school quality.”

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The National Education Department now wants to hear what the public thinks. On Thursday, he launched a survey with Education NC, an independent education news agency, into how school quality should be measured. The survey will remain open until October 10. The results will be published once the investigation is complete. The CN General Assembly has the final say on how grades are determined.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools superintendent Tricia McManus said measuring student achievement is important, but other factors, including growth and school culture, should also be considered.

“There is a more holistic approach to school ratings,” she said.

In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools, 75 percent of schools have met or exceeded growth, a figure the school district touted at a media event the day the grades were released. Statewide, 70% of schools have met or exceeded growth.

But looking at it another way, 35 schools, or nearly 48 percent of the schools in the district that were tested, were identified as “poor performers.”

Low performing schools are those whose “D” or “F” grades have not exceeded growth.

Frankie Santoro, a language teacher at Clemmons Middle School, criticized the calculation of grades at a school board meeting earlier this month.

Santoro noted that Clemmons Middle received a “C” despite a big leap in growth. For 2021-22, 57.5% of the school’s students were academically proficient, an increase of almost 10 percentage points from the previous year.

Another example is Walkertown Elementary, where skill level jumped 10 percentage points. Still, it received a “D” and was deemed underperforming because it achieved but did not exceed expected growth.

“By this formula, more than half of our schools are considered underperforming, and we know that’s not the case,” Santoro told the school board. “We don’t have D, F schools like that. These aren’t the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools. I ask that you please consider lobbying the state to change this formula.”

The survey is available at https://www.ednc.org/school-performance-grade-survey/.

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