This time of year is always a nervous one for North Carolina public school leaders.
With state testing results going public, K-12 officials will talk about their successes and their struggles. This week may focus on the struggles, though, with new testing results showing declines on state exams.
From The News & Observer:
Fewer North Carolina public school students passed state exams this year, with the decline increasing over time for students in third grade despite a state push to get young children reading at grade level.
New state results from the 2017-18 school year released Wednesday also show that the state’s 12-year streak of rising high school graduation rates has ended. But state leaders say the graduation results can’t be compared to previous years because of changes in how the rates are now calculated.
State education leaders pointed to positives Wednesday about how the majority of schools are meeting growth expectations on state exams and that the number of low-performing schools has dropped.
But the new test results also showed several areas of decline.
“We have some things to celebrate,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said at a news conference Wednesday. “We also have things that will make us pause and have concerns.”
Go to https://bit.ly/2wGEwP6 for a Charlotte Observer/News & Observer searchable database of results for every North Carolina public school. Results are also available at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/reporting/ on the state’s website.
One example of a decline is how the percentage of students passing the state reading, math and science exams dropped to 58.8 percent in the 2017-18 school year. It was 59.2 percent the previous school year.
Even when the drop is small, Johnson said it still reflects that a lot of students declined. He said state test results seem to be plateauing.
“When we dig into the data, we see that some results go up, some results go down,” Johnson said. “But consistently the trend is that we are not where we want to be for students.”
An area where the scores seem to be going in reverse is performance of third-grade students on the state’s end-of-grade reading exam. State legislators created the Read To Achieve program in 2012 with the goal of trying to get students proficient in reading by the end of third grade.
The passing rate on the third-grade reading exams is now at 55.9 percent. It was at 60.2 percent in the 2013-14 school year and 57.8 percent in the 2016-17 school year.
Johnson said he hopes that efforts he’s pushed for such as reallocating state Read To Achieve funding to buy supplies and iPads for K-3 literacy teachers and reducing the amount of required assessments will improve performance.
It’s worth debating whether devices alone will make a difference. Recent research suggests the jury’s still out.
Johnson’s iPad purchase has also been mired in controversy. As Policy Watch reported last week, the purchase came months after the superintendent and influential state budget leaders had their expenses, including dinner and lodging, paid for by Apple reps at their Silicon Valley headquarters.