North Carolina’s controversial method of grading its schools—which includes dishing out “D” or “F” grades to designated “low-performing schools”—failed to find a single defender at a forum of educators, lobbyists and activists Monday night in Raleigh.
The meeting, led by the Public School Forum of N.C., a research and policy group in Raleigh, centered on identification of low-performing schools, a system that hinges heavily on test scores.
Most who spoke Monday said the formula should focus more on student growth in test scores, so as not to unfairly penalize schools with a challenging student body.
Currently, 80 percent of a school’s performance grade is determined by test scores. The remaining 20 percent keys upon students’ academic growth.
Many who spoke Monday suggested reversing that ratio, or favored a 50-50 split between test scores and growth.
Research has shown that socioeconomic status is one of the greatest predictors of academic performance. And with many schools in North Carolina overseeing a student body comprised largely of students receiving free or reduced lunch, advocates say student growth is a greater measure of a school’s performance than its testing scores.
“The negativity that comes with that low-performing status pushes back on us,” added Rusty Hall, one of several award-winning principals at low-performing schools who spoke on Monday’s panel. Hall is the principal at Old Town Elementary in Winston-Salem, a school with 100 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunch.
Hall, like several educators who spoke Monday, said the “low-performing” designation makes teacher recruiting extremely difficult, adding that better teacher pay is just one of many ideas for improving the environment for such teachers.
“I think the pay is related to respect,” said Hall. “And the way teachers are paid, it doesn’t feel respectful.”