News-Star: Community

Johnston schools prepping for A-F grades

Johnston school leaders are reviewing talking points with principals who may hear from concerned parents, not about their child’s grades, but their school’s performance.

In February, the state will release the first-ever A through F grades for public schools in North Carolina. The General Assembly made the letter grades a requirement in 2012, a change that drew criticism from the state school board association and many superintendents.

A main concern is the formula the state is using for the grades, which are based 80 percent on test scores and 20 percent on how much students grow in their learning. Under those guidelines, Johnston County Schools Superintendent Ed Croom said he expects 30 percent of schools will get As or Bs, while 25 percent will get Ds or Fs.

“When the grades come out, it’s going to be concerning what you see,” Croom said. “Whenever you put a grade on something, you have to look at the formula.”

Croom said Johnston schools would score better with a formula that better balanced the emphasis on proficiency and student growth. But recognizing the formula “is what it is,” he said, school board members and principals are preparing to explain lower grades to parents.

One point they may make to concerned callers is that the letter grades, which place a higher emphasis on test scores, are evaluating schools still transitioning to harder exams based on the Common Core state standards. School board member Donna White said it’s important to tell parents that the grades are based on test scores from previous years, when teachers and students were less familiar with Common Core.

The Department of Public Instruction currently publishes School Report Cards, which include demographic figures, average test scores and data on school safety and teachers. North Carolina became one of about a dozen states to adopt the letter grades in 2012.

School board member Peggy Smith said she knows Johnston schools aren’t where they should be. However, the system is serving students well, she said.

“It makes me furious that we have a culture that says we have to put a number on everything, and we don’t judge it out of what comes out of that school and the smiles and progress that we’ve made,” Smith said.

“I get really defensive when people start talking about the sad state of affairs in public education,” she added.

Rodney Peterson, the school system’s chief academics officer, said the state is expected to release the letter grades on Feb. 5.

In other business, the school board approved several personnel actions, including: