Mixed result on test scores: Knapp earns A, P.W. Moore receives F

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Diane Davenport teaches a 10-grade math class at J.P. Knapp Early College in Currituck County, Thursday. Knapp was the only school in the region to earn an A letter grade under the state's accountability reporting system.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, September 8, 2017

Schools across the region reported a mixed result on the latest state standardized testing results, with five schools improving by one letter grade and six others falling a letter grade during the 2016-2017 school year.

For the third year in a row, J.P. Knapp Early College High School in Currituck County was the only school in the region to earn an A grade under the accountability reporting system used by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. DPI released the school letter grades, which are based on student testing performance last April, on Thursday.

P.W. Moore Elementary School in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools, meanwhile, was designated an F school, marking the first time an area school has scored a failing grade since the current accountability reporting process began.

The ECPPS district, which also had five schools receive a D grade, has been designated a low-performing district by DPI, the first time that’s happened in the region.

Districts with more than half their schools receiving a D grade or below are designated low-performing. Alternative schools, such as H.L. Trigg Community School in Elizabeth City, are evaluated on a different scale, and Trigg’s “C-Maintaining” grade was not counted toward ECPPS’ status.

ECPPS officials noted that other districts in the region considered low-performing this year included Washington, Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash-Rocky Mount, Hertford and Northampton.

The state accountability report includes letter grades for schools and information on student performance in various subjects. It also includes an evaluation of whether schools met, exceeded or did not meet their “expected growth” targets.

Whether a school met its growth target is determined by the progress students make over the course of a school year, recognizing that students begin courses and grades at different places. The progress made by students at a particular school during a year’s time is measured against the average progress made by students statewide.

Across the region, the schools that improved by a letter grade in 2016-17 included Chowan Middle School in the Edenton-Chowan Schools, from a D to a C; D.F. Walker Elementary, also in the Edenton-Chowan Schools, from a C to a B; Central Elementary in Currituck, from a D to a C; Knotts Island Elementary, also in Currituck, from a C to a B; and Perquimans County High, from a C to a B.

In addition to P.W. Moore’s drop from a D to an F, the schools that fell a letter grade were Camden Intermediate in the Camden County Schools, from a B to a C; Shawboro Elementary in Currituck, from a B to a C; Central Elementary in Pasquotank, from a C to a D; J.C. Sawyer, also in Pasquotank, from a C to a D; and Weeksville Elementary, also in Pasquotank, from a B to a C.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Superintendent Larry Cartner said teachers and administrators in the district are working to improve students’ academic performance.

“ECPPS has an amazing team of hardworking, caring and dedicated educators and support staff who are going the extra mile to meet the needs of our students,” Cartner said in a statement released by the district. “They are focused on meeting them where they are, while ensuring they have the knowledge and tools to experience growth, both academically and personally.”

Addressing the DPI report, Cartner said the “accountability data provides school districts with measurable goals for ensuring our students are learning and experiencing academic growth.” But he said “ECPPS believes that children are more than test scores.”

Cartner noted the district is in the second year of what’s known as Learning Focused implementation, a program that helps teachers provide “differentiated instruction” to students.

“I am confident that with the work being done in this district to provide optimum learning opportunities for our children, we will provide continued positive outcomes for our students, families and community,” Cartner said.

In Camden, Camden County High and Camden Early College High met their growth targets, Camden Intermediate and Camden Middle did not meet its target, and Grandy Primary exceeded its target.

Travis Twiford, interim superintendent of the Camden County Schools, said he was pleased overall with the district’s peformance, though he added, “we always want to do better.”

Twiford noted that Camden Intermediate’s letter-grade fall from a B to a C was based on moving only three points, from 72 to 69.

“The drop was not significant as far as statistical variance is concerned,” Twiford said. “But it does concern us.”

Twiford said the district’s biggest concern was not meeting growth. He said school officials want all the schools to at least maintain where they are. The major weakness seems to be in math, Twiford said, and the schools are focusing on the subject this year in their school improvement plans.

In the Edenton-Chowan Schools, district spokeswoman Michelle Maddox noted that D.F. Walker Elementary saw the highest growth rate of the county's four schools. The school exceeded expected growth for the second consecutive year and moved from a performance grade of C to a grade of B.

"Students at the school increased their growth and percent proficiency in every tested area with an overall growth rate of 88.8 percent," she said.

Maddox said Chowan Middle School students also exceeded their expected growth target. They moved ahead of last year's expected growth rating and their school performance grade climbed from a D to a C. The school achieved an overall student growth rate of 87.8 percent, she said.

John A. Holmes High School also showed increased academic performance, Maddox noted. More than 95 percent of Holmes graduates took and passed high-level mathematics classes such as Math III, she said.

"The school earned a school performance grade of C but did not meet expected growth," she said. "The school received an overall growth rate of 54.3 percent."

Maddox said the county's fourth school, White Oak Elementary, does not receive a school performance grade or growth rate "because it is a pre-K through second-grade school and does not administer end-of-grade tests."

Rob Jackson, superintendent of the Edenton-Chowan Schools, said the results showcase students' academic progress and offer reasons to celebrate.

"I believe in our students, teachers and staff and the fruits of their efforts have really paid off with a continued increase in student growth and improved school performance," he said. "In two years, D.F. Walker Elementary School has moved their school performance grade from a D to a B. Chowan Middle School moved their performance grade from a D to a C and exceeded expected growth, both phenomenal tasks which are a testament to the dedication of teachers, staff, students and parents."

In Currituck, five schools met their growth targets, three did not and two exceeded their growth targets.

Currituck County Schools Superintendent Mark Stefanik, interviewed shortly before a Board of Education meeting, said he was particularly proud of J.P. Knapp for again earning a A letter grade and exceeding its growth target. 

“That’s a difficult task,” he said. “Trying to get to an A is difficult enough. But once you get there, trying to maintain it is a difficult task.”

Overall, Currituck schools “had nice scores,” Stefanik said.

“We had several schools improve. We had more As and Bs than ever before,” he said. He also noted that with Central improving its grade from D to a C, the district had no school with a grade lower than C.

In Perquimans, the high school improved from C to a B, Hertford Grammar maintained its B grade and Perquimans Middle School maintained its C grade.

“The letter grades are wonderful, but seeing that are kids are learning, that is the goal,” Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman said. “It shows how hard our students are working and how intentional our teachers are teaching.”

Both the grammar school and the high school growth met their growth targets. The middle school did not.

“It missed just barely,” Cheeseman said.

In addition to school staff, he credited the improvement to the Perquimans Board of Education for, he said, hiring “high quality teachers and bringing in high quality programs.”

Perquimans Weekly News Editor Peter Williams and Chowan Herald Staff Writer Rebecca Bunch contributed to this article.