Wake County Schools

Merrill: State report cards will not show Wake schools' progress

Posted February 4, 2015
Updated February 6, 2015

— Overall achievement is up in the Wake County Public School System – over 80 percent of students met or exceeded state academic standards within the past two years – but Superintendent Jim Merrill doesn’t believe such will be reflected when state school report cards are released Thursday.

“Remember this when you hear about a school’s single-grade measure later this week,” he said during his State of the Schools address Wednesday night.

During his presentation, Merrill mentioned a number of statistics highlighting the district’s progress in 2013-14:

  • The number of students passing state tests increased from 64.8 percent to 66.6 percent.
  • Proficiency rates for English and language arts increased in four out of seven grades; five out of seven grades for math.
  • Science proficiency rates increased by four points in grade 5 and two points in grade 8.
  • Wake students are outperforming state and national averages on the ACT and SAT.
  • The district’s graduation rate increased to 82.9 percent, the highest since the state began tracking cohort graduation rates nine years ago. Merrill said the increase was driven by more minority and poor students graduating.

“You might think that a point here or there is not a lot, but when you’re talking about moving scores and scores and scores of children up a single percentage point, that’s a lot of heavy lifting going on just to move one point,” Merrill said.

Part of Merrill’s speech focused on the new school report cards, which assigns each public school a letter grade partly based on achievement (80 percent) and academic growth (20 percent).

“We never believed placing a single grade on a school made much sense,” he said. “It simply falls short of the mark…what they do not offer is an explanation of why the information logically translates to a single grade for an entire school.”

In response, the district released detailed progress reports for each school that compares state test results, the quality of teachers (staff turnover, percentage of experienced teachers, etc.), school climate (percentage of parents who support teachers, etc.) and teachers' views on school leadership (whether school leaders support teachers, etc.) to district and state averages.

“No single letter can convey this to parents,” said Merrill, who described the progress reports as logical, transparent, detailed and credible. “Do we really think our parents are unable to process more information about their children than single letter grade?”

Merrill concluded his address by highlighting elements of the district’s recently passed five-year strategic plan, which focuses on educating students who are prepared for a “complex and changing world” and who are “collaborative, creative and critical thinkers.”

The document comes after months of the district soliciting public input through stakeholder focus groups, town hall meetings and an online survey where nearly 10,000 people shared their thoughts on the state’s largest school district.

The plan also includes a goal of graduating at least 95 percent of students that are “ready for higher education, career and productive citizenship,” a goal Merrill says is possible.

“It’s the type of goal this community should set for itself,” he said.


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  • Eq Videri Feb 5, 2015
    user avatar

    LOL. He has just handed the excuse playbook to 150,000 Wake County school students!

    "Ignore my grades -- they don't reflect the reality of my academic progress!"

  • notexactly Feb 5, 2015

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    Actually you misunderstood my point. The lawmakers waste our tax dollars on stuff instead of funding what they should. Both parties are guilty of this. I am all for funding education. I do not agree that more money will help the kids that don't want to learn anyway. But I am all for more money to education. We pay enough taxes. they should use them wisely. Sorry you misunderstood that. Oh and my kids have been through public education and the youngest has two years of college left. All three were honor students and are doing quite well. By the way the grade their high school received was a C. They did very well with public education. But they put in the work to accomplish that too. My wife and I were very much involved with their school. That's the big difference here. But you can keep thinking that money will fix everything if you want to, your choice. I don't put my eggs in the gov. basket. You will lose every time. Look at the gimme system.

  • Doug Pawlak Feb 5, 2015
    user avatar

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    Sure they do. That makes soooo much sense. It's like a deadbeat dad claiming that his ex-wife "wastes the money" he doesn't send her.

  • Terry Watts Feb 5, 2015
    user avatar

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    I'm sorry, but if you think the money wasted on educating your kids is a "waste", then that is your fault and I feel bad for your kids.

  • notexactly Feb 5, 2015

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    Right oh! The reason the report wont show the dem progress is due to the fact they are made up to start with. Silly sheep! The report will actually tell the truth about the real progress or lack of.

  • notexactly Feb 5, 2015


  • notexactly Feb 5, 2015

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    The problem is not funding. Funny you cant understand that. The problem is they waste the money they have.

  • rodneyyates Feb 5, 2015

    When we put the blame and responsibilities where they belong schools will have plenty of money even with reduced funding. IT IS THE Fault OF UN-INVOLVED PARENTS in a high percentage of cases. The state can only offer the opportunity to receive an education and teachers catch most of the blame when kids fail and that is dead wrong. If parents would get involved with their children's education on a daily basis we would see an amazing change. Until then we will continue to throw good money after bad. Lets tie educational performance to the entitlement system and then the problem groups will take it seriously.

  • Sean Creasy Feb 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Considering that these folks have steadily been lowering the acceptable limits for achievement over the last several years it doesn't surprise me that their "ratings" have gone up.. Alas but they are still graduating large numbers of kids who can't read above a 3rd grade level and can't tell you where our country's capital is...

  • Rick Price Feb 5, 2015
    user avatar

    Wake County does not have a Funding Problem , they have a WASTE problem. Go back to separate school districts ( Cary schools , Raleigh schools , Garner schools , Ect. ). Let each area take care of there own. WCPSS is a waste of money and time .