State News

Low-performing schools rile Halifax leaders, parents

Posted August 5, 2011

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— Nearly half of North Carolina's 13 lowest-performing schools are in Halifax County, and those numbers riled local leaders and parents who want more action from the school system, which is under state supervision.

"I'm disgusted," Halifax County Commissioner Rives Manning said Friday. "I think it's an indictment on the school system."

The latest ABCs of Education report, based on test scores from grades 3 through 12, show that six of Halifax County's 11 didn't improve student performance as expected last year: Davie Middle School, Northwest and Southeast high schools, and Dawson, Everetts, Inborden elementary schools.

Composite test scores show that between 24.7 to 44.8 percent of students in the low-performing schools were proficient at their grade level.

"I wasn't shocked, but I really thought things had improved this year," said Tiffany Simmons, whose two children go to Inborden Elementary.

School Superintendent Elease Frederick agreed with the assessment of the test scores.

"I am very disappointed," said Frederick, who took over the job after a judge ordered state intervention in 2009.

Most principals and some teachers at the low-performing schools have been fired, so they can start over with new leadership, she said. 

"We've made significant changes in personnel this year," said Bill Harrison, chairman of the State Board of Education. "Hindsight is 20/20. If I could have gone back and made those personnel changes two years ago, I think we'd be sitting in a different place."

Halifax school board chair Donna Hunter said another concern is a high number of student absences.

Halifax County school classroom Six Halifax schools are low performing

The Halifax school board voted to lengthen the school day by 30 minutes and the school calendar by two days. Administrators and teachers are also scheduled to get training from state education experts next week, before the school year starts on Aug. 25.

Halifax County Schools is in the midst of a three-year, intensive program aimed at boosting student performance. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered the state intervention in 2009, calling the district's test scores "academic genocide."

School leaders pointed to some signs of progress, such as a rising high school graduation rate – from 54.8 percent in 2008-09 to 71.5 percent last year.

"We are going to get where we need to be. We're going to make sure that our students are getting a sound education," Frederick said.

Parents said they're willing to give the schools a chance to improve.

"I'm sticking with Halifax County," Simmons said. "I was born and raised here, so I'm going to stick it out."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • loprestw Aug 9, 2011

    You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. With more domestic spending in free government entitlements, why drink?

  • harviele Aug 8, 2011

    At least the Teachers haven't pulled an Atlanta maneuver yet!

  • harviele Aug 8, 2011

    No matter how intelligent or how good the teachers and Principals are the kids will do bad if they are not intelligent kids. But the fact is that most kids would do much better in school if their parents were active in their education instead of expecting them to get their education only from the schools. Show me a parent who cares and I will show you a kid who does well in school.

  • silencedogood Aug 8, 2011

    Low-performing students = Low-performing schools

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 8, 2011

    Amazing thing is that AdvancEd fully accredits the failing Halifax School District while the highly successful Wake County School District is being threatened with losing it's AdvancEd accreditation.

    It seems that student performance and test scores aren't part of the formula used by AdvancEd when it accredits schools.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 8, 2011

    Amazingly AdvancEd has given the schools in Halifax County their full accreditation because the schools in Halifax County follows AdvancEd's liberal policies and agenda.

    Student performance and test scores don't determine accreditation, following a liberal agenda determines accreditation.

    Whereas Wake County which has high performing students and high test scores may lose it's accreditation because Wake County is no longer following AdvancEd's liberal agenda and policies.

    Based on Halifax County, this should tell you how useless AdvancEd's accreditation is.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 8, 2011

    Education begins in the home.

    If the home environment doesn't value education, it doesn't matter how much money you throw at the schools.

  • Plenty Coups Aug 8, 2011

    North Carolina Home-"This is a sad but true statement. Graduation rates do not indicate skill. We are cheating our children. Shame on you DPI & NCAE."

    NCAE has absolutely nothing to do with policy. They simply advocate for teachers. (The nerve of them, huh?) Do you really think Halifax County is going to magically improve their scores with their student population, and when teacher salaries are ridiculously low? Who would want to go there, get very low pay, deal with the apathy, then get blamed for the outcome? Certainly the best teachers would go elsewhere.

  • Thimk Aug 5, 2011

    Hey. Thinks ain't so bad as you think! After all, AdvancEd has given all the schools in Halifax County their seal of approval.

    It's the Wake County Schools that are failing, according to AdvancEd.

    Test scores are not important; AdvancEd's accreditation is what's important.

  • North Carolina Home Aug 5, 2011

    "maybe it's the HOME that's the root cause. I will be glad when someone in authority will FINALLY say that out loud on the camera on TV" com_mon_sents

    HOME is crucial. I went through 12 yrs. of public schools with a high percentage of church sponsored orphans. Our senior class president was an orphan. All of them excelled or at least passed all required classes for graduation. They had no parents "in home" but they had direction and values.

    Orphanages are not perfect but neither are the homes from which many of our "under performing" neglected, abused and thrown away children. All protected by DSS.

    It is time for change.