My Turn: School scores up, but it’s not time to celebrate

Published 12:48 am Monday, September 5, 2016

By Karen C. Lilly-Bowyer

Do not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors or the fancy statistical “footwork.”  The Rowan-Salisbury Schools are still performing significantly below the state average. RSS is not a low performing district for the 2015-16 school year. We only have 15 low performing schools. The improvements in two schools kept us off that list. We had a few schools that moved from Fs to Ds and from Ds to Cs. This is improvement, but if you look at the state reports, you will see that almost all of the schools still have negative growth index scores. We had five out of 34 schools that showed positive growth.

One of the most important RSS scores was not mentioned in the superintendent’s report to the school board and the public. How do RSS schools compare to other schools in the state? In 2014-15 the state average composite score for all EOC and EOC student test results was 56.6. This means that 55.6 percent of the students in the state were grade level proficient. How did RSS stack up? Well, we only had 42.1 percent of our students at grade level proficient. That is a difference of 14.5 points. The year before that our district was 10.4 points below the state average. Dr. Moody called that drop a digital conversion implementation “dip.”  Basically, like Carolina football, we were told … “but just wait until next year.”

Well, next year has arrived, and this is what we have. The state grade level proficiency score for 2015-16 was 58.3. Great, our state has made some progress.  The state came up 1.7 points. RSS, on the other hand, had a score of 44.9. That is an improvement over the previous year, but it is still 13.4 points below the state average and our improvement was only 1.1, which is still behind the state growth.

What does all this really tell us? The RSS schools are performing significantly below the state grade level proficiency average. This is not a reason to celebrate! Imagine our schools as students in a classroom. After a big test, we will look at the scores. Most of the grades are Ds; there are a few Cs, a couple of Bs but there are no As and there is an F. Any educator will tell you that scores like these show that what was tested was not taught. Either the tested material was poorly presented or it was not presented at all. The teacher is at fault. That analogy explains why the NC Department of Public Instruction requires low performing schools and districts to write school improvement plans. It also explains why the state demands a change in school and district level administration when schools continue to be placed on the consistently low performing list.

The state doesn’t punish our students or our teachers. They know that the problem is inadequate leadership. Our children are just as smart as any other children in the state. Our teachers are just as qualified and just as dedicated.  So what is the problem? Our classrooms are being micromanaged by the district administration.

A total digital conversion of a school system might look good on Dr. Moody’s resume, but our students have paid the price for that accolade. Why does our school board seem to go along and help cover up the facts. One can only assume that they are seeking re-election and don’t want the public to realize that things have gone to hell in a hand basket under their watch.

Our RSS central administration wants to celebrate their progress over the previous year’s scores, but the progress they are celebrating is minuscule. We need to address the fact that we are still crawling out of a hole that was created by the administration. The situation is ludicrous! It is unfair to the children in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools for the public to accept this poor performance. Every resident of Rowan County is affected by our low school performance because it affects our economy. Industries that are considering Rowan as a location look at our schools.  Families with children don’t want to relocate to areas with poor school performance.

This problem can be resolved but it requires serious change.

The state reports can be found at Accountability Services


Karen C. Lilly-Bowyer is a retired educator.

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