09/23/09 — County gets high marks for results on state testing

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County gets high marks for results on state testing

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 23, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County Public Schools' 90.9 percent performance rate in the federal No Child Left Behind standards was good enough to earn the system ninth place among the state's top 10 scoring systems.

In addition, Wayne ranked first when stacked up against the state's 20 largest school systems, said Ed Wilson, chairman of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Education Council.

"I guess what is instructive here is that you can see what we did (compared) with the largest school districts in the state -- and that's Wake and Johnston and all of those, Charlotte/Mecklenburg and that whole crowd," Wilson said. "Of the 115 school districts in the state, we were ranked ninth overall at 90.9 percent.

"I think that it is incredibly good news. This is something the schools need to get credit for when they are doing good. It means that in 90 percent of our (33) schools the children made adequate yearly progress, and that is incredible. It means they are not falling behind, that they are improving at a rate that would be considered good progress year to year. This means a lot."

Avery (nine schools), Camden (five schools), Cherokee (14 schools), Currituck (10 schools), Elkin City (three schools), Perquimans (four schools), Surry (17 schools) and Tyrrell (three schools) were the top eight systems, all at 100 percent. Alexander and Person (10 schools each) were tied for 10th at 90 percent.

The accomplishment is even more impressive, Wilson said, when the county's number of students receiving free and/or reduced lunches is taken into account.

"The incredible thing about this is that we did so well against other school districts that have a much lower percentage of people on free and reduced lunches, which means that people (here) are living at a lower level of poverty," he said. "To me on top of everything else, that is another positive."

Among the 20 largest systems, Johnston County was second at 85.7 percent, Charlotte/Mecklenburg was 10th at 68.7 percent and Wake was 16th at 62.8 percent.

Along with faring well on the state level, Wayne schools also earned the top ranking of systems within a two-county radius.

Local school systems include Johnston County, 85.7 percent; Wilson, 82.6 percent; Duplin, 68.8 percent; Sampson, 58.8 percent; Lenoir, 55.0 percent; and Pitt, 41.7 percent.

The comparisons were released in the second in a series of "report cards" that the Education Council plans to issue.

The No Child Left Behind performance is based on schools that demonstrate adequate yearly progress (AYP) on end-of-grade testing for elementary and middle schools and end-of-course testing for high schools.

Of the county's 33 schools, 30 made AYP. Spring Creek High School at Seven Springs, Goldsboro High School and Belfast Academy were the three schools that failed to make AYP.

Spring Creek missed the 100 percent goal by only 1 of its 41 measures.

"Wayne County educators, parents and community members should be proud of the tremendous progress their schools made in improving student achievement last years," state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said. "Thanks to the hard work and focus of school leaders and teachers, a record 90.9 percent of their schools met federal progress goals, while the number of schools meeting expected growth in student achievement and the county's graduation rate both exceeded statewide averages."

However, work remains to be done, Wilson said.

"We are extremely pleased with the exemplary progress our schools are making," he said. "However, we still have schools that are not performing well on these tests, and we will continue to work to assist in improving these schools.

"The improvements we have made in our graduation rates, and when we can show (industry) this, it just illustrates that our schools are doing a good job. This (comparison) is a good one-year capsule of how we are doing. That, plus what we are doing with the Career Readiness Certificates (CRC) -- we are leading the state now in those. What that does is shows an industry the level of ability of our folks to fill jobs."

The CRC program is an assessment that shows prospective employers applicants possess skills they require.

"This is an achievement in which everyone in Wayne County should take pride, for it shows what can be accomplished when a community works together for its children," said Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina which operates a call center in the Mar Mac community. "I have always believed that great things happen when policy makers, parents, educators and students are focused on the common goal of helping all students learn and excel.

"This commitment to preparing an educational workforce was one of the considerations that sold us on Wayne County as the home for our 450-job Technical Support Center. These AYP results show that the commitment remains strong."