Education

10 things to know about NC school report cards

Posted December 2, 2015

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has released the 2014-15 School Report Cards, which provide information about all public, charter and alternative schools in the state. Before you check out your school or district report card, here are 10 things you should know:

1) Not all of the data is included ... yet

This year's report cards feature state-, district- and school-level information about things including school size, student performance, safety, financial information and access to technology and instructional materials. However, the following information is not included yet and will be added as it becomes available, likely in early 2016:

  • Educator effectiveness data
  • State-level scores from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and math
  • College course completion

2) What's new?

For the most part, the 2014-15 report cards are the same as last year's, but there is some new information:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) designations have been added to the school information tab
  • Schools designated as Focus schools due to failure to meet participation targets for three years are identified in the report cards
  • A report on historical trends in student and teacher populations is included at the state level.

3) Your child's school might not be included

This year's report card only includes schools that were open during the 2014-15 school year. New schools opened this year will be included when the next report card is issued in fall 2016.

4) Using an Apple device? Report cards might not load for you

The new school report cards site does not work with Safari, the native Internet browser of Apple devices, including Macs, iPads and iPhones. To view the report cards on those devices, you'll need to install a different browser that supports Adobe Flash, such as Chrome or Firefox.

WRAL News asked Diane Dulaney, who handles school report cards for the state Department of Public Instruction, if they plan to add support for Apple users in the future.

"We will evaluate next steps for the 2016 School Report Cards next week," Dulaney said. "The browser issue is one that I will raise with the vendor and NCDPI leadership, but no solution has been decided on yet."

5) You can compare schools, but don't rank them

The school report cards were created to allow the public to get a detailed view of each school and district and to allow side-by-side comparisons. However, NCDPI warns against using the data to rank schools "since schools are structured differently from one another in terms of size, grade levels, student populations served and the programs offered ... It would be incorrect to determine that one school is better than another based on slight differences between data points."

For instance, report cards for charter and alternative schools vary slightly. Since charter schools are not part of a school district, only state comparisons are provided on their report cards. Also, quality teacher data are limited for charter schools due to the flexibility allowed in their operations, and grade ranges in alternative schools may vary from year to year. For example, an alternative school may be listed as a K-12 school but only have students in grades 3-10 this year.

Federal schools, state-operated schools and other special schools do not receive report cards due to differences in the way data are reported for those schools.

6) What does "." mean?

As you view the report cards, you might notice "." in some data tables. NCDPI includes that to protect student privacy when the amount of students in a group is less than 5 percent.

7) Schools will distribute snapshots

School officials will be distributing local snapshots, or summary versions of the report cards, to parents across the state this week. If you don't want to wait for your school to send them out, the snapshots are available on the {{ a href="external_link-15149949"}}N.C. School Report Cards website{{/a}} by clicking on "school report card," then "school profile" and "school snapshots."

8) Grades A-F are included

For the second year, school performance grades (A-F), as required by state law, are included on the school-level report cards for traditional and charter schools. Also, the statewide end-of-grade and end-of-course test results are reported for the five achievement levels: superior, solid, sufficient, partial and limited command.

9) SAS helped with analytics – for free

This is the 14th year North Carolina has issued school report cards and the second year that Cary-based SAS has helped with the analytics. SAS provides the software licenses and consulting support for school report cards to NCDPI at no cost. The previous version of the report cards was custom built by NCDPI staff, so SAS participation saves the agency (and taxpayers) man-hours, according to school officials.

10) Love data? Here's how to dig deeper

NCDPI has posted the data it used to build the 2013-14 N.C. School Report Cards on its website. It's divided into 15 tables and includes a data dictionary. You can download the tables that interest you or download a zip file of all the tables at once.

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  • Chris D Mathews Dec 3, 2015
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    Code for Raleigh has loaded all the data into our Data Portal at http://codeforraleigh.opendatasoft.com/explore/. Check out the data for yourselves!