New state report cards inspiring some schools to work harder
Posted March 14, 2015
Updated March 15, 2015
Students aren’t the only ones getting report cards these days. North Carolina public schools are also being graded on their performance.
The new lawmaker-driven standards for grading public schools were passed amid concern from teachers and school leaders across the state and went into effect this year. The grades are meant to give a quick reference on whether a school is doing its job.
Forty-one percent of the schools in the state received a C grade for performance, while 25 percent of the schools got Bs or Ds.
Grades A and F were earned by 5 to 6 percent of the schools.
Brentwood Elementary School in Raleigh received a D grade. Brentwood is Wake County’s only engineering magnet school and has a rigorous science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, also called STEM. But that level of rigor isn't reflected on the school's report card.
Principal Eric Fitts said Brentwood's grade does not accurately reflect how hard teachers and students are working.
"At Brentwood, we like to look at the total kid and the total growth of our program,” he said. “It’s really hard to just say how well a school performs just based on one criteria.”
Nearly 98 percent of the schools that received a D have a student population where more than half are low income. At Brentwood, 76 percent of students fall at or below the poverty line.
Fitts said it is important for him to understand how his students stack up with their peers across Wake County and North Carolina, and the report cards help with that.
Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, chairman of the House K-12 education committee, said the grades are simple for the public to understand and provide incentives to students and educators.
"It engenders a little competition,” Horn said. “ We want to teach our kids how to be competitive and aggressive while creating an environment where they can maximize their talent.”
Horn said the grades are based 80 percent on performance and 20 percent on growth. For elementary schools and middle schools, the grades are based on test results. For high schools, the grades are based on graduation rates.
For the current school year, legislators will base the grading system off a 15-point scale. In coming years, the scale will change to a 10-point scale, so an A would be 90 to 100.
Fitts said Brentwood will bring in tutors to help students, and they will use the grade as motivation to work harder.
“There is a lot more work that needs to be done, and we are being very strategic and purposeful with giving students the support to be successful," he said.