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Halifax Schools seeing improvement, chief says

Last summer, the state put in place a three-year intensive program to help boost student performance after a judge accused the school system of "academic genocide."

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HALIFAX, N.C. — Nearly a year after the state stepped in to help improve student performance in Halifax County Schools, the superintendent says the troubled school system is seeing some positive results.

"We're seeing improvements, but I can't tell you all about the assessment until the end of the year," Halifax County Schools Superintendent Dr. Elease Frederick said Wednesday. "We do benchmarks. We're doing weekly assessments. We feel good about the progress we're making."

The state Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction last summer put in place a three-year intensive program to help boost student performance.

State figures last year showed more than 71 percent of the school system's elementary school students and 74.3 percent of middle school students were not proficient in reading.

At the high school level, about one-third of the students were considered proficient on end-of-course tests, compared with 68 percent statewide.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said preliminary results for the school system's two high schools this year have been mixed. One is on par with last year; the other has seen a slight improvement, she said.

Results from elementary and middle schools aren't yet available.

"I believe that our teachers want to do a good job in the classroom, and that's why we are here – to help teachers do a better job in teaching the subject matter," Atkinson said. She and other members of the state Board of Education toured William R. Davie Middle School Tuesday.

The school is one in the school system that has had below-average standardized test scores for the past three years.

Last year, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who has long overseen academic performance in the state's public schools, ordered the state to get involved, saying the school system operated so poorly that it was committing "academic genocide."

The Department of Public Instruction has since been providing support and oversight to coach principals in effective instructional and school leadership. It has also been providing resources to help central office personnel better guide the school system and to ensure that teachers get the necessary support they need to improve student learning.

Student performance hasn't been the only issue the school system has faced within the past few years.

It is currently repaying more than $1 million in state loans because of overspending and money mismanagement.

The 4,000-student school system has also seen a drop in student enrollment, likely because of the low test scores. There are 300 fewer students this school year, and that has meant less funding to an already cash-strapped school system.

Tight finances forced the district to close three schools and consolidate.



Beau Minnick, Reporter
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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