RALEIGH — Four out of five North Carolina public schools met expected student learning growth targets in the recently completed academic year, but fewer than half reached all objectives, the state’s annual schools report card showed Thursday.
The state released the annual ABCs of Public Education report for the 15th and final time reporting how students performed on end-of-the-year and end-of-course tests taken in grades third through 12th.
In Robeson County, 29 of 41 schools met or exceeded their academic growth expectations, according to Bobby Locklear, the LEA accountability director for the Public Schools of Robeson County. The district had one school earning the state’s highest recognition for performance, the Early College, three schools — Lumberton High, Rowland Middle and Tanglewood Elementary — earned the second highest level of recognition, and 25 schools fell into the state’s third and fourth level performance rankings. Locklear said that the 12 schools earning “no recognition” did not meeting state growth expectations.
Robeson County parents wanting to know details on how their children’s schools performed can find the full report at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction website at www.ncpublicschools.org.
Eighty percent of schools statewide met or beat expected academic growth in 2011-12, down from 81 percent last year and 88 percent in 2009-10.
The report also showed nearly four in 10 of the 660,000 students in grades third through eighth were are not reading and calculating math at grade level, the state Department of Public Instruction said.
Gov. Beverly Perdue and state school leaders highlighted results showing high school graduation rates that for the first time topped 80 percent, up from 70 percent five years ago.
“Every child needs a high school diploma to compete, and that’s just the first step up the ladder,” Perdue said. “None of us are proud of 80 percent, but wow, it’s a good day, a great way forward for North Carolina.”
Locklear said that Robeson County’s graduation rate for the past year was 82.6 percent, which is above the state average.
Last year, 78 percent of students across the state earned diplomas four years after entering high school, a result that ranked North Carolina squarely in the middle of U.S. states, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said. It’s too soon to know how North Carolina ranks this year, she said.
The improving graduation rate immediately became a question of whether North Carolina’s schools were doing better despite recession-era funding cuts that have forced schools to hire fewer teachers even as enrollments increased. About 1.5 million students attend the state’s public schools.
“We haven’t had the type of fiscal support that we should have had for the last couple of years,” state school board Chairman Bill Harrison said. “And there is great poverty in this state, regardless of what members of the General Assembly seem to think. There are kids who are in need.”
State House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, praised students, parents and school staff and downplayed the role of funding.
“Our graduation rate shows that improving our education system is not simply a matter of dollars and cents,” Tillis said in a statement. “We must continue to give superintendents, principals and teachers more flexibility and ensure that education is driven by factors inside the classroom rather than by distant administrations and political rhetoric.”
There was improvement with the 2,500 public schools meeting learning objectives in reading and math for their overall student bodies, while also hitting separately measured goals for minority groups, students from low-income or limited-English households, and disabled students.
The thousands of schools facing thousands more subgroup learning targets met expectations 89 percent of the time, up from 81 percent last year. Schools met 88 percent of the learning targets set for black students, up from 72 percent last year. Limited-English speakers met 92 percent of their objectives, up from 79 percent.
But fewer than half of public schools met all their learning objectives.
The ABCs that have established reputations for which schools were failing and which were considered excellent is being replaced by a new accountability model, online testing, and school ratings based on skills students need for college or work. Also starting next year, schools will be graded like students, on an A to F scale.
Fifteen schools were listed in the final group considered low-performing because fewer than half their students were proficient and the school failed to meet expected growth. Three were in Forsyth County and three in Halifax County. Two charter schools were on the failing list — Kinston Charter School and Kennedy Charter School in Charlotte.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio