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Moody: RSS needs more time for better grades

Although the Rowan-Salisbury School System received low marks in the state’s recently released accountability report, the district’s superintendent says teachers and students just need more time to get comfortable with new programs.

The Board of Education heard a presentation on the recent state performance review on Monday night.

Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Julie Morrow and Director of Accountability Dr. Chaunte’ Garrett led the discussion and presentation.

Earlier this month, Rowan-Salisbury schools received letter grades that showed their performance for the 2014-2015 school year. The review showed 19 of the 35 schools received a grade of a D or F.

But Moody said she does not think the letter grades reflect what is really going on in the classrooms.

“That’s a 30-second bite, and if you don’t understand what’s behind that C or D or F, I think it’s an injustice,” Moody said.

Moody said most of the new programs, including a new digital conversion and new literacy partners, have only been in place for a short time and teachers and students need time to get used to them.

“When teachers say things like, ‘When the kids first get something new, it’s disruptive,’ it is. Kids might play games on (the iPads), yeah. I mean, you have to grow through that,” she said.

Morrow said she has seen cases in which students’ levels of engagement are higher because of the new teaching methods.

“That’s a qualitative piece that’s hard statistically to measure,” Morrow said.

Moody said it may take three to five years for the changes to be correctly reflected in the grades.

“We’ve taken away the things that teachers are comfortable with, and we’ve asked them to teach differently, in a very different way. You don’t do that overnight,” she said. “So you are likely to move backward or stay the same before you move ahead.”

Dean Hunter, vice chairman of the board, said he was worried that all of the changes would not result in the improvements the county wants.

“Given the circumstances that we have and you guys instituting this massive overhaul, basically, of our educational system … what gives us a glimmer of hope that what you’re doing and what we’re buying into, we’re going to see a change?” he said.

Moody responded by saying there is more than just research behind all of the models the schools are implementing.

“Probably the greatest hope for us is if you look at districts who have been in this a lot longer, like Mooresville. They’ve been in this 10 years. They got dramatically different results after a longer period of time,” Moody said.

Morrow also said that poverty has a lot to do with the low grades the schools received. She said there is a strong correlation between poverty and school performance.

“It is a very difficult thing for schools of poverty to have a high grade on the grading scale the way it’s currently established by the state of North Carolina,” she said.

According to Garrett, 32 out of 35 of RSS schools have more than 50 percent poverty and 31 out of 35 are at 60 percent. Implementing new technologies and programs can do nothing but help, Garrett said.

“When you’re educating students of poverty … one of the greatest helps and catalysts in changing their trajectory — and that’s academically, socially, emotionally — is access and opportunity,” she said.

Moody said the negative consequences of poverty, like poorer school attendance and less language and vocabulary, can distract from learning.

“It’s not the teaching, it’s all the social and emotional that goes on with children,” Moody said.

Ultimately, Moody said, with more time, the county can expect to see better grades for school performance.

“I think our philosophy has been that … we don’t believe it’s one thing, we believe it’s a multiple of things that we put together to make our system strong based on the best research that we can find today,” Moody said. “If this is not it, I don’t know what is.”

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