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Early college one of few in state to earn score distinction

By Rebecca Rider
rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Thursday’s test score release had a few additional surprises for one local school. Rowan County Early College, located on the north campus of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, was the first school in district history to earn an A school performance grade.

“It is historic. …We did something really special,” Principal Patrick Hosey said.

But the school’s actual rating, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, reads as “A+NG.” The acronym stands for “A with no gap,” meaning that the high school both earned an A grade and did not have any student achievement gaps larger than the largest average gap for the state.

Or, as Hosey summarized it, the usual data subgroups of age, ethnicity and gender had no noticeable performance differences between them.

“So those subgroups that you have are all performing on the same level. Which is kind of rare,” He said.

In fact, fewer than 25 public high schools in the state managed to achieve the same distinction. Approximately 88 schools statewide, total, were ranked A+NG.

“It really is exciting, it is,” Hosey said.

According to the school system’s seven-day count, Rowan County Early College has 239 students this year.

School performance grades are a state ranking system which rely on test scores and, to a lesser extent, improvement or growth of students. According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the final grade is 80 percent test scores and 20 percent growth or improvement. The lettering performance standard has been in use for approximately five years. The A+NG designation was added in 2014-15 to address federal requirements that exclude schools with significant achievement gaps from earning a state’s highest achievement designation.

Hosey credits the growth — from B to A, and then to A+NG — to a strategy the school began last school year. At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, teachers at Rowan County Early College began keeping data profiles of each student. They also paid close attention to the incoming freshman class, and kept tabs on students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Teachers started meeting individually with each freshman student on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and helping them in areas where they struggled. Usually, such individualized attention is just given to students with the lowest and highest grades. But early college teachers began looking at each and every student.

“We started looking at our middle kids that were making a solid C, that at most schools you wouldn’t worry about,” Hosey said.

The results, he said, speak for themselves.

“We didn’t set out to close gaps that dramatically,” Hosey said. “We set out to make sure that everyone was getting personalized attention.”

In the 2017-18 year, students in ninth and 10th grade will receive this individualized attention.

“As we grow this, it’s going to be every student, period,” Hosey said.

In the upcoming year, Hosey said school staff plans to keep close tabs on areas where students struggle. It’s what Hosey calls a “prescriptive approach,” where teachers won’t just determine which subjects are difficult for each student, but which concepts within those subjects are difficult.

But the success of the school is also due to the mindset of its students, who volunteer to shoulder the extra load of college courses while still in high school.

“No one made you come here, you signed up for all this hard work, for all this stress, but it’s going to be worth it in the end,” Hosey tells his students.

And they, too, were pleased with the results. Hosey recalls that Thursday one student told him:

“I feel smart. I finally feel smart now.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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