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Sanctions not in offing for F grade

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Elizabeth City's P.W. Moore Elementary School this year is implementing the state-sanctioned “transformation” school reform model in an effort to reverse the low student test scores that led to its recent F grade on the state’s accountability report.

But what happens if P.W. Moore isn’t able to reverse those test scores? What happens if, on next year’s accountability testing report, P.W. Moore again receives an F grade?

It’s not clear that anything negative will happen — at least not at the state’s initiative.

According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s website, school letter grades serve mainly as information for parents and others in the community, and do not result in state sanctions against a school.

“Legislation did not identify any sanctions or consequences for schools with low letter grades,” the DPI website states, referring to the state law that created the new accountability system several years ago.

What state legislation has allowed since 1997, the website states, is “additional support and interventions to the lowest-performing schools.”

“This effort has been improved and strengthened over the years, and a successful school transformation model is now in place to improve teaching and learning in low-performing schools," according to the website.

State law does require a school that receives a D or F letter grade to submit a written plan for improvement.

Having previously received a D grade, P.W. Moore Elementary is implementing a school reform plan under the state's transformation model this year. Elizabeth City Middle School also is implementing the transformation model, while River Road Middle School and Pasquotank Elementary School are implementing the restart model. The other three schools received D letter grades on the most recent accountability report.

The DPI website notes that school districts are also required to notify parents in writing if their child’s school receives a D or F school performance grade.

The state does not have in place a “school choice” program for parents whose children attend a school with a D or F grade. School choice is the program that allows parents to send their child to another school if the one their child attends consistently performs poorly on standardized testing.

“Local school boards set student school assignments,” the DPI website notes. “At this point, there is no requirement in the legislation to provide public school choice.”

While there is no sanction outlined in state law for a consistently low-performing school, that’s not to say state officials wouldn’t at some point approach a local school district about making changes at the school. Those changes could include closing the school and allowing it to reopen as a charter school or just simply closing it permanently. Neither action, however, would be state directed. It would have to come from the local school district.

DPI also points out that letter grades are only part of the information available about a school and should be considered in the context of other available information.

“It is important to look carefully at details about your school to fully understand the school’s situation,”according to the DPI website.

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