Editorial: Progress for the schools

Published 12:10 am Sunday, September 4, 2016

The degree of elation Rowan-Salisbury school officials expressed Thursday over the latest school performance scores is directly proportionate to the dismay felt at this time a year ago. The sudden drop in 2014-2015 test scores appeared to be a denunciation of the schools’ digital conversion, the brainchild of new Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.

Macbooks and iPads were the most visible signs of the transformation taking place in the schools, but the changes went well beyond that. A new three-year strategic plan zeroed in on two focus areas — reading and literacy, and engaging work and instruction. Meanwhile, the system experienced heavy principal turnover.

The school system stayed the course and Thursday received encouraging news. Scores rebounded in 2015-16. More than 90 percent of the schools increased their performance composite score from last year. A dozen elementary schools earned school performance scores even higher than those of two years ago, pre-digital conversion. The overall upward trend was enough to remove Rowan-Salisbury from the state’s list of low performing districts.

Still, the schools made incremental progress at best. Rowan-Salisbury scores are far below the state average and the scores of most neighboring systems; the school board can hardly claim a turnaround. And board members freely acknowledge that. “To me success is your ultimate goal — we’re nowhere near that,” Chairman Josh Wagner said.  “What we have is progress. You don’t reach success without progress.”

What now? Continue to stay the course, improving and adjusting where necessary.    After a short burst of celebration Thursday, everyone went right back to work on Friday to meet this year’s challenges.

Moody and crew deserve congratulations for the past year’s work and encouragement going forward. Things are looking up. The administration moved into a new North Main Street building, the Wallace Educational Forum, that has become a useful resource to the community. Ending the long-running debate over where and how much to build has been almost as beneficial as the building itself. That item is finally off the agenda.

Now the cloud of being labeled a low-performing district has lifted and the system has momentum on the path to improvement. Congratulations to leaders, teachers and students. Keep it up. Your success is the community’s success.