The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools earned mostly A’s and B’s under the state’s new scoring system, according to a report released Thursday, while the Orange County Schools earned more B’s and C’s.
Most city schools met or exceeded expectations for student growth, while six county schools failed to meet expectations, according to the results.
School in both districts, but particularly in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, still earned better grades than most of their peers.
The new performance grades, based on a scale of A to F, are included in this year’s annual N.C. School Report Cards. Parents are encouraged to use the information about their child’s school to ask questions, advocate for resources and get involved, state education officials said.
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Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools had four A-grade schools – Seawell Elementary and Carrboro, Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill High – and two C-grade schools – Frank Porter Graham and Northside Elementary schools. Only Frank Porter Graham failed to meet expected student growth.
None of the county’s schools earned an A. Instead, county officials reported three B’s, eight C’s and one D, at Central Elementary School – another low-wealth school.
The state’s new grading system largely focuses in elementary and middle schools on standardized test results: 80 percent of the score is based on last year’s test results and 20 percent on the amount of student growth in the past year. At the high school level, grades were based on standardized test results, graduation rates and the percentage of students passing Math III.
This year’s initial results were graded on curve. The 15-point scale grades schools earning 85 to 100 with an A; 70 to 84, a B; 55 to 69, a C; 40 to 54, a D; and anything below 40, an F.
Schools officials around the state have been planning for weeks how to respond to questions about their low grades. They are most worried about next year, when the state plans to switch to a 10-point scale, putting even more schools be at risk for future penalties.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Superintendent Tom Forcella said in a column Sunday (http://nando.com/w5) that his primary concern is that the new grades are unfair by focusing more on test performance and less on student growth from year to year.
“To that end, I am more interested in comparing the child’s current performance versus last year, rather than comparing against other children,” he wrote. “I want to ensure that the child has demonstrated a minimum of one year’s growth over the past year.”
The report’s release Thursday was fairly quiet, spokesman Jeff Nash said. The district already sent Forcella’s column to parents, he said, and will follow up with a letter in the next week or two about the new grading system.
The results were generally good for the district and not unexpected, Nash said.
Frank Porter Graham has only been a dual-language school for a few years, he said, and as such, is packed with children who are still learning English. Roughly 47 percent of students receive free and reduced-price lunches, a common measure of poverty.
A large number of Northside students – roughly 35 percent – also get free and reduced-price lunches, district reports show.
County schools officials did not return a call seeking comment.
The changes are required under a new state law that pits a desire to make school performance more transparent against a fear that the grades will stigmatize lower-income students.
North Carolina is one of 16 states to switch to the new system, some of whom have reported lower grades in schools with higher concentrations of low-income students. Some state districts, including Durham, Chatham and Wake, have asked the state to repeal or delay the new grading system.