PSRC retains low-performing status despite growth

·5 min read

Sep. 3—LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County has retained its status as a low-performing school district despite the majority of schools exceeding or meeting growth requirements, according to the state's accountability report released this week by the State Board of Education.

PSRC has been identified as a low-performing district due to 20 low-performing schools in the district, which is two less than the previous year.

The school district challenged the formula used to determine the low-performing status.

Low-performing schools are those that receive a performance grade of D or F and do not exceed growth, "which is an indicator of the problem with the formula," according to the PSRC school district. "Approximately 20% of our students missed proficiency by one or two questions."

Academic growth measures the acceleration of achievement at a school by accounting for how much each individual student is learning over a year.

"It considers improvement in scores even though a student has not reached the goal of Level 3," according to the school district. "It also compares schools by considering whether each student's progress is less or greater than expected for other students who are similar and who started off at the same score the previous year. This helps illustrate the importance of growth data in helping the district make decisions.

"There is an ongoing conversation among superintendents and principals to change the formula to a 50-50 weight."

On the grade card, 14 schools scored Fs and 15 scored Ds. Southside-Ashpole Elementary, which was managed by the state's Innovative School District, also scored an F. The school was transferred back to the Public Schools of Robeson County prior to the 2022-23 school year.

The student achievement data for the 2021-22 school year are based on analysis of all end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, which are aligned to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in English Language Arts (Reading) and Mathematics and the Essential Standards in Science for all public schools in North Carolina. The data provide the percentage of students who scored at Level 3 and above (grade level proficiency), at Level 4 and above (college and career readiness) and at each academic achievement level.

Academic growth

Despite the low-performing status, the school district celebrated 80.6% of its schools meeting or exceeding growth compared to the 70% reflected in school growth across the state.

Twenty-nine out of 36 schools — excluding the Robeson County Career Center and Learning Acceleration Program — met or exceeded growth, while seven schools did not meet growth; those schools include Deep Branch Elementary School, Townsend Elementary School, Red Springs Middle School, Rosenwald Elementary, Fairmont High School, Red Springs High School and Purnell Swett High School.

Schools that met growth were: Fairmont Middle School, Fairgrove Elementary School, L. Gilbert Carroll Middle School, Long Branch Elementary School, Lumberton Junior High School, Lumberton Senior High School, Orrum Middle School, Parkton Elementary School, Pembroke Elementary School, Peterson Elementary School, Piney Grove Elementary School, Rex-Rennert Elementary School, W.H. Knuckles Elementary School, South Robeson Middle School and

Southside-Ashpole Elementary School. Schools that exceeded growth were East Robeson Primary School, Littlefield Middle School, Magnolia Elementary School, Oxendine Elementary School, Pembroke Middle School, Prospect Elementary School, PSRC Early College at RCC, Rowland-Norment Elementary School, St. Pauls Elementary School, St. Pauls Middle School, St. Pauls High School, Tanglewood Elementary School, Union Chapel Elementary School and Union Elementary School.

"We all recognize that schools are about more than test scores and that a test score should never define the quality of students and schools. There are more indicators that effectively represent a school's success," said Cindy Lewis, director of PSRC Testing and Accountability.

State performance

North Carolina students improved their performance on state tests during the 2021-22 school year from the previous year's COVID steep decline, and schools achieved growth almost on par with pre-pandemic levels, according to the state's accountability report.

Because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, the accountability report for the 2021-22 school year is the first since 2018-19 to feature all components of the state's accountability framework, including the calculation of A-F School Performance Grades and growth designations.

Statewide, for the 2021-22 school year, 864 schools have been identified as low performing, up from 488 in 2018-19. The number of low-performing districts increased to 29 from eight in 2018-19.

Even as most schools achieved at least expected growth, the A-F performance grades of many schools were depressed by lower-than-usual percentages of students earning a score of grade-level proficient. With a weighting of 80% on the test scores and other achievement data, as expected, the school performance grades have shifted downward, consistent with the impact of the pandemic on state test scores, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Looking ahead

"Our academic challenge to every school last year for year one of our turnaround work was to create a positive baseline of growth," read a statement from the school district.

"The A-F school performance grades that schools received for the 2021-22 school year were affected by the formula used to determine those grades. Student performance on state tests far outweighs school growth. Eighty percent of the grade is based mostly on test scores; 20% is for growth, measured by a statistical model that evaluates schools' progress across years."

The Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education took action this year to adopt a new reading and math curriculum to increase student proficiency. In addition, schools added an average of 15 minutes of instructional time to each day, which equates to 45 hours — seven and a half instructional days.

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at tsinclair@robesonian.com or 910-416-5865.