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School staff: Designations don’t show true picture


By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Pitt County Schools officials raised concerns with board members this week that new new federal designations for under-performing schools did not account for year-to-year improvement in test scores.

Administrators at Monday’s workshop meeting of the Pitt County Board of Education outlined the four new designations under the the Every Student Succeeds Act. Categories schools fall are based on student performance on test scores and determine levels of support and conditions placed on schools. 

The new designations are comprehensive support and improvement-low performing; comprehensive support and improvement-low graduation rate; additional targeted support; and consistently underperforming subgroups.

Low performing schools fall in the bottom 5 percent of school performance grade scores, while low graduation rate schools have a graduation rate of less than 66.7 percent, middle grades director Shannon Wainwright told the board.

“Thankfully, no Pitt County Schools are categorized (in either category),” Wainwright said.

There are 77 low performing schools and 42 low graduation rate schools in the state.

Additional targeted support schools teach at least one subgroup of students who score a school performance grade of 37 or lower — meaning that 37 percent are performing at grade level. Some common subgroups include students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, black students and Hispanic students.

There are 1,634 schools in the state designated as additional targeted support schools. Several Pitt County Schools are on the list, according to Wainwright. But the classification does not consider that students have shown improvement — referred to as growth — in their scores from one year to the next, she said.

“These lists don’t take growth into consideration,” she told the board. “Yes, students with disabilities at A.G. Cox (Middle School) were under 37, but they grew those kids by 82.9 percent. That’s awesome, but that won’t be reported (to the U.S. Department of Education).”

The number of students on grade level determines the school performance grade, while the growth is determined by how much students the improved on their scores, according to federal program director LaVette Ford.

“You don’t see a true picture (with these new designations). There’s a lot of growth that isn’t seen,” she said. “Individual report cards shown on our website has the data. We’re trying to get (the federal government) to look 50-50 with growth and proficiency because that might be a better depiction.”

Consistently underperforming schools are any schools with a subgroup receiving a school performance grade of F. All schools on the additional targeted support list are consistently underperforming schools, but not all consistently underperforming schools are additional targeted support schools.

There are 1,740 schools in the state on the consistently underperforming watch list. Because the U.S. Department of Education needs three years of data, all 1,740 are not yet considered consistently underperforming.

Students with disabilities are the most common subgroup to be considered deficient, according to Wainwright and Ford.

Exceptional children’s director Virginia Gaynor is developing a professional development session for teachers to attend during the summer. The purpose of the professional development will be to train teachers to reach students with disabilities.

Ford hopes to use the funding the district receives for Additional Targeted Support schools to pay stipends to teachers who attend the training.

In other news, the board:

■ Approved an activity bus resolution to buy the remaining activity buses from White’s International for $262,691.16 at 3.26 percent interest. School board member Robert Moore made the motion to approve the resolution, which school board member Betsy Flanagan seconded. It passed unanimously.

■ Added the revised beginning teacher support policy to the consent agenda for its December meeting.

■ Received an update on the secure corridors, the new bus garage and the Moye Office update. All six high schools were to have functioning secure corridors by 5 p.m. Nov. 21. The new bus garage, located at 965 Woodridge Drive in Greenville also is expected to be operational by the end of next week.

■ Received a performance summary for the 2017-18 school year.