Local school districts performed well compared to the rest of the state in recent benchmark scores. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has released the results of several educational results, including performance end-of-grade testing for specific grade levels and growth rate (compared with previous student test results).

Jeff Tunstall, assistant superintendent for Surry County Schools, told the county Board of Education that he and his staff gave a few “yee haws” when they saw Surry’s rankings. The county district performed well in some categories — such as fifth in the state for students taking Math 1 and second place for fourth-grade math.

Elkin City Schools also impressed with scores like fifth place for high school English II, second in fourth-grade reading, fourth in eighth-grade science and ninth for fourth-grade math. In overall district performance, Elkin City Schools scored a composite mark of 69.2, good for seventh in the state. Surry County scored 66.1, good for 15th place. Mount Airy City Schools had a 62.7, good for 24th out of 115 districts.

That means that all three school systems finished in the top one-fifth of districts in the state. For neighboring counties, Yadkin was 34th, Alleghany 36th, Stokes 39th and Wilkes 54th — all in the top half of the 115 districts. For the urban areas, Forsyth (including Winston-Salem schools) was 75th, and Guilford (including Greensboro) was 66th. Of those in the bottom 25 on the list, the closest are Thomasville City (105th) and Lexington City (93rd), more than 60 miles away.

Tunstall told the county board that he was pleased to see Surry’s overall rank go up after slipping slightly the past two years. Three years ago, the county was 19th in the state, then 21st and 24th before jumping up to 15th this year. The state released hundreds of pages at once, so schools have been busy examining all the data to see how they compare. Among the pages is a listing of every school with a letter grade based on the state’s perceived performances. These are based on student performance data such as end-of-grade tests, end-of-course assessments, ACT tests and graduation rates for high schools.

For Surry County, two schools received a performance grade of A, while nine schools rated as a B. Eight received a C, but half of those were only a point or two away from being a B. No Surry school earned a D or an F. In fact, the lowest score was six points higher than a D, so they weren’t even close to being unsatisfactory. For Mount Airy, B.H. Tharrington is only K-2 and doesn’t administer the statewide tests used in the upper grades. For the other three, Jones Intermediate received a B, Mount Airy Middle School a C, and Mount Airy High a B. Similarly,

Elkin Elementary was a B, the middle school a C and Elkin High a B. Not surprisingly, the top marks in the state came from early colleges, where students are taking high school and college courses together. The Surry Early College received a composite score of 93, easily the best in the region. Also getting an A grade, however, was an elementary school. Shoals received an A after posting a reading score of 85, math score of 83 and Education Value-Added Assessment growth score of 84.

Dr. Kim Morrison, Mount Airy City Schools superintendent, said she is pleased with some of the test results — such as 100 percent of middle school students passing Math 1.

However, she added, “Proficiency is not the only measure of how well students are learning or how well teachers are teaching. Achieving high growth means educators are accomplishing the goal for personalizing the educational experience for each child — whether they are two years above grade level or two years below.”

Growth goals are set by the federal and state government, Morrison pointed out. These goals include a broad group of students such as gifted and exceptional children. Jones Intermediate and Surry County’s White Plains and Rockford schools all had growth scores of 89 or higher and ranked in the top 10 percent of the state. When a child enters a new school or new grade, the faculty and staff celebrate the individual growth that child makes compared to where he or she started,

Tunstall told the school board. Fundamental to the district’s success is that all children are more than a test score, according to Morrison. Mount Airy uses data to reflect upon strategies, identify areas of improvement, and celebrate accomplishments. However, the district believes strongly that test scores are only a small part of the equation for each child’s success.

Morrison said, “Mount Airy City Schools staff has again risen to the challenge to thrive and excel by providing quality education even in financially challenging times.”

Tunstall also noted the performance of local schools compared to funding provided. He said a report from the Center for American Progress ranked the 115 school districts based on funding per student. He said Surry came in 15th in overall performance, but its funding ranked 89th. Quoting the American Progress report, he said Surry came in 59th in state funding, 80th in federal funding and 97th in local/county funding.


The Mount Airy News

September 12, 2016