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CCS Soars with Record-Breaking Graduation Rate and Intensive Learning Recovery Efforts

September 6, 2023

Cumberland County Schools (CCS) is delighted to share the district's performance and growth data for the 2022-2023 school year, as released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) on the morning of Wednesday, September 6. These results showcase the remarkable achievements of CCS students across all grade levels and underscore the district's unwavering commitment to academic excellence and dedication to nurturing the talents and success of every student.

The 2022-2023 accountability report by NCDPI encompasses comprehensive performance and growth data for both individual schools and districts across the state, offering insights into the overall educational landscape in North Carolina. These insights are derived from the analysis of student performance on end-of-grade (EOG) and end-of-course (EOC) assessments that align with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in English Language Arts/Reading (ELA/Reading) and Mathematics, as well as the Essential Standards in Science. The report provides valuable information regarding the percentage of students achieving various proficiency levels, including those who have attained grade-level proficiency (Level 3 and above), college and career readiness (Level 4 and above), and students across each academic achievement level.

Tammy Howard, the senior director of accountability and testing for the NCDPI, cautioned that the 2022-2023 test data must be considered within the context of all COVID disruptions, and though 2018-2019 data is included in the report released today, it is not intended to be used as a comparison for the purpose of evaluating effort or drawing conclusions.

“We are continuing to experience some of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Howard. “As we look at the data, the school performance grades and other information from the 2022-2023 school year, it’s very important to note that while it’s informative, it is limited, and it is discouraged to make comparisons to 2018-2019, which is prior to the pandemic.” She said 2018-2019 is provided as a reference point only, not for the purpose of drawing linear comparisons.

CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. stressed the significance of test results as a component in evaluating our district's progress, acknowledging their importance while emphasizing their place within a broader context. He commented, "The 2022-2023 Data and Accountability results affirm the remarkable work taking place in our schools. The notable improvements in student proficiency serve as a clear confirmation that our educational initiatives are headed in the right direction."

Proficiency Highlights

Districtwide, proficiency measures demonstrate CCS’ progress toward recovery. In CCS, 72% of schools in which End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments were administered experienced gains in their Academic Performance Composite Scores.  Increases occurred in 14 of 19  End-of-Course (EOC) and End-of-Grade (EOG) assessment areas.

District composite proficiency scores increased from 47.3% to 49.3%.  As a district, overall, Mathematics experienced the largest increases when compared to all other subjects, with increases ranging from 0.1 to 51.4 percentage points. 

In grades 3 through 8, the district saw increases in proficiency in Reading and Math at all grade levels, the most notable Montclair Elementary showing an outstanding increase of 35.1 percentage points in 3rd-grade reading. Ed V. Baldwin Elementary increased by 24.9 percentage points in 4th-grade reading, Ashley Elementary increased by 24.9 percentage points in 4th-grade math, and College Lakes Elementary increased by 29.9 percentage points in 5th-grade science.

The district’s reading performance improved remarkably, with 4th-grade Reading showing an increase of 6.2 percentage points and 8th-grade Reading showing an increase of 2.9 percentage points in proficiency scores. The district also demonstrated advancement in Mathematics proficiency, particularly in 4th-grade Math, with a remarkable increase of 8.8 percentage points, and 8th-grade Math showed an increase of 5.1 percentage points. High school EOC proficiency increased slightly by an average of 1.4 percentage points, with the highest gains produced in Biology. Districtwide, high school Biology increased by 3.5 percentage points. Twenty schools in the district have attained achievement levels that are at or above pre-pandemic levels.

"While targeted recovery strategies remain essential, it's important to recognize the vital role this data plays in identifying our students' needs and designing our support accordingly," said Dr. Connelly. "Nonetheless, we must also acknowledge the remarkable resilience our students, parents, and community have demonstrated throughout recovery, and the notable rise in achievement is attributed to their unwavering determination." 

Growth Highlights

Each year, the state measures student growth, which is the amount of academic progress that students make during a course or class. In 2022-2023, 84.2% of schools in the district met or exceeded growth. Twenty-three schools exceeded growth, and 46 schools met growth, indicating students are maintaining and increasing student achievement.

Two schools, Jack Britt High and Pine Forest High, received the maximum converted growth score of 100. Converted scores are used to measure growth in the School Performance Grades. 

Dr. Connelly stated, “We are making steady progress," said Dr. Connelly. "Despite the challenges, this level of growth affirms the hard work that is taking place in our classrooms."

School Performance Grades (A-F)/Designated Low-Performing School Highlights

According to NCDPI, the A-F school performance grades that schools received for 2021-2022 and in 2022-2023 were affected by the formula used to determine those grades because student performance on the state tests far outweighs the credit schools earn for the progress students make on the same tests from one year to the next. Eighty percent of the grade is for the percentage of tests earning a score of at least grade-level proficient; 20% is for growth, measured by a statistical model that compares each student’s predicted test score, based on past performance, against his or her actual result.

While 84.2% of schools in the district met or exceeded growth in 2022-2023, the A-F performance grades of many schools were hugely impacted by the percentages of students earning a score of ‘grade-level proficient.’ 

During the 2022-2023 school year, 93.8% of the 16 low-performing schools, as identified by NCDPI, increased their Academic Performance Composite scores. Of the 16 low-performing schools named following the 2021-2022 school year, six of them were removed from the low-performing list based on performance during the 2022-2023 school year, while seventeen schools were added. The total number of low-performing schools in CCS is now 27.

Of the 27 low-performing schools, 20 met adequate yearly growth, while 17 increased their academic performance composite and 12 increased the value of their School  Performance Grade. 

In 2022, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt shared concerns about the state’s current accountability model, as noted by EdNC. Truitt said, “This model is flawed, and we need to change it. Why do we need to change it? We need to change it because it is not an accurate reflection of what school quality is. It’s not an accurate reflection of student success. And those two things are important because the accountability model of a school, of a district, of a state drives everything else.”

“I echo the concerns of countless educators, parents, and concerned individuals who have long questioned the fairness of the current accountability model, specifically the A-F system and the formula used to designate low-performing schools,” said Dr. Connelly. “The existing accountability model falls short in fully recognizing the dedicated efforts of teachers and students in our schools, specifically the growth and progress that we are seeing in classrooms across the district. We did not get here overnight, and we understand that it will take time to fully recover and rebound from the impacts of the pandemic.”

High School Graduation Rate and ACT

The district’s four-year cohort graduation rate of 86.6%  is the highest that it has been since 2006 when the state began tracking graduation rates and surpasses the state’s four-year cohort graduation rate of 86.4%.

According to NCDPI, high school performance grades were impacted by a higher minimum ACT score now required for admission to University of North Carolina campuses. The percentage of students reaching that benchmark score on the ACT, required of all 11th-grade students in North Carolina, is one of the factors used to determine each high school’s A-F performance grade, along with EOC scores, 4-year cohort graduation rates and other indicators. The percentage of 11th-grade students in CCS  achieving the UNC minimum of 19 was 32.7 in 2022-2023, compared to 34.3% in 2021-2022.

Opportunities for Continuous Improvement

While the state’s Data and Accountability results highlight the significant strides achieved throughout the school system, district officials acknowledge that the journey continues.

District leaders will continue to use the PASE framework, which stands for Performance, Accountability, Support, and Empowerment. This five-tier system categorizes schools based on their support requirements. Tier I schools, identified as low-performing by the state, receive intensified support characterized by increased frequency and depth.

"The effectiveness of our PASE school-support structure is evident," said Dr. Connelly. "Nevertheless, we remain committed to strengthening support for Tier I and Tier II PASE schools as we persist in our pursuit of improved proficiency among all student subgroups. While there's still considerable work ahead, it's important to take a moment and recognize the progress we've made as a district.”

For additional information, view the 2022-2023 Data Overview Report compiled by CCS.