The Chapel Hill Carrboro-City Schools system posted among the top averages in the state on end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, according to results released Thursday.
But the majority of black students and students that are economically disadvantaged continue to struggle, the results also show.
Superintendent Tom Forcella said he was not pleased.
The federal target for white students in grades 3-8 to score a Level 4 or 5 on the reading end-of-grade tests was 60.9 percent. About 85.7 percent of CHCCS’s white students scored a Level 4 or 5.
The federal target for black students in grades 3-8 to score a Level 4 or 5 on the reading portion of the same test was 33 percent. Yet, only 31.7 percent of the district’s black students and 29 percent of economically disadvantaged scored at those levels.
Similar gaps between the district’s white students and their black and economically disadvantaged classmates exist on other tests.
“The goal is all kids learning at higher levels,” Forcella said. The school district must change the culture of instruction, he said.
The assumption that some kids are naturally smarter than others has not been eliminated yet, he said.
“And that’s not true. But for whatever reason we’ve held on to that concept,” Forcella said. “Then kids start to believe it and if they don’t get (the subject matter) immediately, they start to think, ‘I’m not as smart as those kids. So now your mindset is, ‘I can’t do it.”
Magda Parvey, assistant superintendent for instructional services, added that some of those students don’t know how to function through a challenge.
“Because you’ve been told for years that you’re not as smart as those kids over there,” Forcella said.
He said not only does the district need to change some students’ mindsets, but some teachers’ as well.
“Because if everyone believes in this mindset, then you’ve changed the culture and everyone believes that I can do this,” Forcella said. “I’m not saying everyone is going to be the same, but we shouldn’t have that disparity.”
The tests are based on the more rigorous Common Core standards in English and math and state standards in other subjects. This was Common Core’s second year.
After the first year of Common Core, test scores dropped dramatically around the state.
Students could score a Level 1, 2, 3 or 4. Scoring Level 3 and 4 meant you were proficient. After test scores dropped, the State Board of Education approved a new scale with five levels in March, making it easier to pass.
Now students can score a level 3, 4 or 5 and still be considered grade-level proficient. However, if they score a 3, they are not considered on track to be college or career ready, according to state and federal standards.
CHCCS’s overall passing rate was 77.1 percent. It compares to 44.2 percent in Durham Public Schools, 66.6 percent in Wake, 59.6 percent in Orange County, 58 percent in Johnston County and 56.3 percent statewide.
Forcella said with the efforts that the district has put in place to focus on minority and economically disadvantaged students, the district expects to see bigger gains next year.