NCDPI releases academic report following third year of pandemic impact, CMS showing signs of recovery

The report revealed that the number of low-performing schools in N.C. has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic.
Across the state of North Carolina, 2,595 schools were included in the report.
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 3:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) released its state-wide testing report from the 2021-22 school year on Thursday, the third in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected.

Across the state of North Carolina, 2,595 schools were included in the report.

Of the schools included in the report, 42.3% of the schools measured were considered ‘low-performing,’ which means they earned a School Performance Grade of ‘D’ or ‘F.’ Thirty-five percent of schools were ‘C’ schools, while 17.2% were ‘B’ schools, with only 5.6% being ‘A’ schools.

To see the full spreadsheet of school performance grades, click here.

The report also states that 29 districts were considered ‘low-performing,’ which means that more than half of the schools within those districts received low-performing grades. Only eight districts fell into that category prior to the pandemic.

A source that spoke with WBTV said that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) was not one of the 29 low-performing districts.

Compared to the most recent ‘normal’ school year, which the state considers the 2018-19 year, which was not affected by the pandemic, the total number of low-performing schools across North Carolina nearly doubled this past academic year.

The full NCDPI report can be read here.

Looking specifically within the CMS district, the number went from 42 in 2018-19 to only 50 in 2021-22. The district’s 50 low-performing schools made up 5.7% of the state’s total during the 2021-22 school year, compared to 8.6% during the 2018-19 period.

Dating back to the 2018-19 year when CMS had 42 low-performing schools, 14 of those schools have since improved from low-performing status. An additional 22 have fallen into that category, based on this past year’s statistics.

Allenbrook Elementary is one of the 14 schools that moved off of the low-performing list. Allenbrook’s Principal Kimberly Vaught says Allenbrook was ranked as an F for at least four years prior.

Her school has used a combination of multi-tiered systems of support, inclusion classrooms with regular teachers, an Exceptional Children’s teacher, and an English Learners teacher.

“We speak the language of prosperity, we speak the language of breaking the link here at Allenbrook and because of that I stand before you today as a school that was formerly an F school and is now a C school,” Vaught said.

Within the district, 83% of CMS schools met or exceeded growth in 2021-22, which Chief Accountability Officer Dr. Frank Barnes says was the highest measurement since the 2015-2016 school year. On the other hand, 54% of schools earned performance grades of A, B, or C.

Across the state, the most recent statistics show that 86.2% of all students graduated in their four-year cohort.

CMS statistics reveal that the graduation rate dipped slightly - by less than one percent - this past year.

Former CMS Board Chair Arthur Griffin, who also has three grandchildren that attend schools in the district, believes CMS’ student outcomes-focused governance and smart goals will help push the needle. Griffin believes more time and energy should be poured into students over the summer not after the scores are released in September, which he says is an example of infrastructure accountability.

“We should’ve had a plan over the summer addressing individual needs of students who did not do very well in May,” Griffin said.

Following the release of the NCDPI report, CMS held a media briefing where they addressed more figures.

“Our nation is coming out of a global pandemic we’ve seen and experienced it with public health, economics, labor shortages, and yes in academics. What we’re saying is yes the recovery which will be a multi-year recovery is showing signs that it’s happening even in places where the performance was much lower than we wanted it to be,” Dr. Barnes said.

As a means of helping students recover academically from the pandemic, CMS is utilizing multiple recovery efforts during the 2022-23 school year, including the following strategies:

  • Increasing the number of learning communities to increase attention and support each school needs.
  • Deepening curriculum work in ELA and math, developing teachers.
  • Tiered interventions - MTSS, identifying students in need and getting them the help they need.
  • Providing targeted supports and additional resources to identified schools.
  • Monitoring and using test scores to track performance throughout the school year.
  • Accountability - aligning staff evaluations to district performance on goals and guardrails.

During the CMS briefing, Chief Accountability Officer Dr. Frank Barnes noted that several schools had large percentage-point increases in proficiency and college and career readiness rates for reading, math, Math 1, and Math 3, when compared to the previous academic year (2020-21).

“We should’ve had a plan over the summer addressing individual needs of students who did not do very well in May,” Barnes said.

Statistics provided by Barnes also indicated that students performed 1.7 percent better in reading in Grades 3-8 during the 2021-22 year. However, English II performance dropped by about two percent.

Barnes said that the gains show that “recovery has begun” from the pandemic’s academic impact, and that “these are gains that should be celebrated.”

Related: CMS Board member, Interim Superintendent weigh in on upcoming release of 2021-22 end-of-year test scores