For Allenbrook Elementary, the lyrics of a Drake song has become a mantra entering into the new school year.
“Started from the bottom, now we’re here,” the school’s principal, Kimberly Vaught, recited to reporters at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ end-of-year review press conference.
It’s a song Vaught has heard her students sing throughout the campus. But for her, it’s a reminder of how far the school’s performance has come.
Since 2017-2018, Allenbrook Elementary was viewed as an F-performing school for its lack of growth, but according to CMS’s end-of-year results, it has improved to a C-performing school.
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Allenbrook is one of many CMS schools that exceed end-of year performance expectations. But many others continued to struggle.
The pandemic has impacted academic performance in schools statewide, and CMS was no exception.
According to data from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the district last year had a 50.2% proficiency rate, slightly trailing the statewide average of 51.4%. The CMS results were better than the previous year’s score of 44.6% but lower than the 59.8% the district achieved in 2018-19.
How grading works
The statewide formula for calculating a school’s performance bases 80% of the final grade on student proficiency. The remaining 20% comes from the school’s growth from the previous year.
The state Department of Public Instruction categorizes low-performing schools as those that score a grade of D or F and don’t meet their growth targets.
The state has seen a 77% increase in the number of low-performing schools, compared to a 19% increase for CMS, district officials said.
Although 50 of CMS’s 177 schools currently rank as low-performing, the district believes “academic recovering” was shown in the 2021-2022 performance review.
Progress being made
Eighty-one CMS schools exceeded growth expectations in 2021-2022.
The district has 42 low-performing schools in 2020-2021. Fourteen of those schools exited that status after the most recent end-of-year testing.
Fifty-four percent earned a school performance grade of A, B or C last school year.
Twelve of the 177 schools in CMS that received grades scored A grades, five fewer than in 2019.
Seven schools scored a higher grade than before the pandemic. They were: Allenbrook Elementary, Croft Community School, Tuskassegee Elementary, Greenway Park Elementary, Villa Heights Elementary, Wilson STEM Academy and William Amos Hough High School.
Subjects including reading, math and science saw improvement in all grade levels from the previous year.
Room for improvement
Forty-five percent of CMS schools received a D or F performance grade for the 2021-22 school year.
Twenty-two schools were newly identified as low-performing, bring the total to 50 going into the current school year.
Low-performing schools with the lowest scores included Newell Elementary, University Park Creative Arts, Ranson Middle, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, and Druid Hills Academy.
The majority of CMS schools scored in the C (47) and D (54) ranges. Twenty-seven schools received F grades. (In 2018-19, only seven of the districts 171 schools received F grades.)
English testing saw a decrease across the district, and CMS’s graduation rate dropped from 84% in 2021 to 83.3% in 2022.
Plan moving forward
According to state requirements, schools placed on the low-performing list must draft plans to improve their test results.
This school year, the district plans to reduce the number of students in some classrooms, based on which schools are struggling in particular subjects.
District officials and principals also will work with teachers to create better curriculum plans and will provide additional tutoring to struggling students.
Returning to in-person learning was an adjustment for both teachers and students, Hugh Hattabaugh, CMS’s interim superintendent, said.
Improving low-performing schools, he added, will be a multi-year effort.
“I think we’ll see double the gains this coming year as we move forward,” he said.