Guilford County Schools No Longer a Low-Performing District
September 6, 2023 ― As researchers indicate students still need time to recover from the learning losses experienced due to the pandemic, Guilford County Schools (GCS) reported increases in student performance and growth data in their 2022-2023 accountability report today. The district also revealed plans to stay the course on its commitment to help all students recover and thrive.
During the accountability and state testing update, Chief Performance Officer Dr. Sonya Stephens shared that this year’s test data included all components of the state’s accountability framework such as the calculation of school performance grades (SPG). The 2022-23 school year is the second year since 2018-19 to include growth and school performance grades.
The performance composite is the percent proficient on all tests and grade levels combined. GCS saw increased proficiency for each grade span – elementary, middle and high schools – and all student groups compared to 2021-22. Eighty-six schools increased their performance composites over 2021-22, and 28 schools had 2022-23 performance composites at or above pre-COVID levels in 2018-19, up from 20 in 2021-22.
End-of-Grade (EOG) Test Results
Students in grades three through eight take EOGs each year in reading and mathematics, and students in grades five and eight also take an EOG in science. Math proficiency increased for each student group and every grade in GCS. Sixty-three schools increased their EOG math proficiency – 46 elementary and 17 middle schools, while 20 schools increased 8th-grade math scores, including Math 1.
The district also saw an increase across grades four through eight in EOG reading overall. However, we saw a slight decline in third-grade reading. Forty-four schools increased their EOG reading proficiency compared to 2021-22 – 26 elementary and 18 middle schools. Black students, English Learners, and students with disabilities all increased EOG reading proficiency compared to 2021-22.
Students in grade five increased their proficiency in science overall and for all student groups. Grade eight science fell slightly compared to 2021-22 in all student groups except Asian students, whose proficiency rates surpassed pre-pandemic rates.
End-of-Course (EOC) Test Results
High school students take Math 1, Math 3, Biology and English 2 EOCs. GCS increased proficiency across all four EOC assessments. All racial/ethnic groups and English Learners increased proficiency in Math 1, and all student groups increased in Math 3 and Biology. Furthermore, Math 3 had the largest increase in proficiency for 22-23 compared to the other EOC assessments and surpassed pre-pandemic rates.
Academic growth is an indication of the progress students in the school made over the previous year. The standard is roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of expected growth for a year of instruction during a typical school year. Growth is reported for each school as Exceeded, Met, or Not Met and is reported in EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System), the value-added tool adopted by North Carolina.
For 2022-23, 75 schools or 65 percent of GCS schools met or exceeded expected growth, up from 62 schools or 53 percent in 2021-22 – an increase of 13 schools. Currently, the state calculates School Performance Grades (SPG) with a ratio of 80 percent achievement and 20 percent growth calculations. Stephens pointed out that the state of North Carolina is currently evaluating and revising how school performance grades will be calculated in the future to include other factors to determine a school’s SPG.
Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate
The district’s four-year cohort graduation rate is 90.8 percent, maintaining a consistent trend of a higher graduation rate than the state and other large school districts in North Carolina. seven schools had a graduation rate of 100 percent, while an additional 11 schools had graduation rates above 90 percent. Stephens also explained, “While it is still too early to fully measure the impact of learning hubs, for two years in a row, students who attended the learning hubs had higher graduation rates (96.9%) than those who did not (88.8%).” Moreover, “A deeper dive into the graduation rate analyses showed that students who attend the learning hubs have a 25 percent increased probability of graduating.”
While more than 50 percent of students in grades kindergarten through third grade were starting school behind in early literacy skills; however, by the end of the year, they had caught up to their peers, testing at or above the benchmark on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment. Every student group had double-digit percentage point increases in reading proficiency when comparing the beginning-of-year results to the end-of-year results. This included 62 percent of kindergarten students achieving above or well above average growth on the DIBELS assessment by the end of the 2022-23 school year and a 43-percentage point increase in proficiency for kindergarten through grade three on DIBELS.
When examining state testing results, it is important to consider the context of the pandemic’s impact and the district’s increase in the percentage of Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools compared to the other large districts. GCS has 74 percent of its schools with the federal CEP designation, which provides free lunch for all students in the school based on poverty data. This percentage is notably higher than other large districts, such as Wake County Schools with 6 percent and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools with 61 percent of schools being designated CEP.
“We are extremely proud of our students, teachers, school and district leaders who worked extremely hard to help students perform on grade level and improve their growth. Due to their hard work, GCS is no longer a low-performing district and continues to improve learning outcomes for students at a steady rate.” Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley said. “We are prepared and committed to continue what works for our students, including accelerating learning for all students; recruiting, retaining and rewarding top talent; maintaining safe and healthy schools; and preparing students for the world. We have much to celebrate, and we are focused on providing all students with a high-quality education regardless of their zip code.”