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1999-2000 ABCs of Public Education Report Vol. 1
Special Conditions | Main ABCs Vol. I Page


News Release

Aug. 3, 2000, 10 a.m.

ABCs Results Highlight Need for Focus on Middle Schools and Ways to Sustain Growth

North Carolina students made modest gains in state test scores in the 1999-2000 school year, according to results from the ABCs of Public Education released by the State Board of Education today. This continues an upward trend that has been building since state end-of-grade testing began in 1993 for elementary and middle school students.

A total of 69.8 percent of students in grades three through eight scored at or above Level III, or grade level, on the state end-of-grade tests in reading and mathematics. This represents slightly less than a 1 percent gain for the year and an increase of nearly 10 percentage points since 1995-96, the year the ABCs program was developed.

The report released today provides school-by-school performance results for all of the state's 2,115 public schools eligible to participate in the program. This is the fourth year that K-8 schools have participated in the ABCs program, and the third year for high schools under the model.

The ABCs model recognizes both growth in student achievement and the percentage of students performing at grade level (Level III for grades 3-8) or proficiency level (Achievement Level III for grades 9-12). Each K-8 school has a goal for student achievement that is set by the state and is based on average growth statewide and previous years' experiences.

To review the entire report, including the recognition categories and a list of schools by recognition category or by school district, please go to the following web site: http://abc.neonova.net. This special web site is provided as a service by Nortel Networks to handle the unusually large audience for this particular report.

Although the percentage of elementary and middle school students performing at or above grade level has increased, schools seemed to have more difficulty meeting or exceeding their goals for student achievement growth in 1999-2000. The percentage of schools meeting the standard for Exemplary Growth/Gain fell from 58.2 percent in 1998-99 to 45.3 in 1999-2000. In the category of meeting Expected Growth/Gain, 24.3 percent of schools met that standard for 1999-2000, up slightly from the 23 percent figure of 1998-99.

A total of 959 schools made Exemplary Growth/Gain, and 514 schools made Expected Growth/Gain.

Middle schools seemed to have difficulty meeting their growth standards in 1999-2000. For the 96 school districts that have traditional middle grades schools (grades six through eight), only one increased the percentage of middle schools meeting or exceeding their growth standard. In 64 middle school districts, the percentage of middle schools meeting or exceeding their growth goals declined. Thirty-one of these districts showed no change in the percentage of middle schools meeting their growth goals.

State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. noted that the 1999-2000 school year was an unusual year. "We had a 500-year flood, the worst snowfall in the central part of North Carolina for 100 years, and many disruptions from both weather events. In spite of this, many students and many schools made modest gains."

State Superintendent Michael E. Ward credited the local schools and communities for maintaining their focus. "

"The perseverance of educators, parents and students made a difference in a difficult year," Ward said.

Ward said that while this year's gains were not as great as in previous years, the 1999-2000 report does show that North Carolina schools are on the right track. "I believe it is important to continue pushing for gains in the percentage of students at or above grade level. The Student Accountability Standards beginning this fall will continue that focus."

The number of Schools of Distinction (schools with 80 percent or more of their students at or above grade level or proficiency) has increased dramatically throughout the ABCs years. A total of 510 schools or 24.1 percent met this goal in 1999-2000. This is up from 158 schools in 1996-97 when the program started. This also increased from 1998-99 when 408 schools were Schools of Distinction.

Schools of Excellence are schools that not only met or exceeded their goal for growth but also had 90 percent or more of their students at grade level or proficiency. North Carolina has 73 schools that earned this recognition for 1999-2000. This also is an increase from 1996-97 when only 12 schools statewide reached this level of achievement, and this is an increase from 1998-99 when 50 schools met the Schools of Excellence criteria.

A total of 597 schools were placed in the No Recognition category. These schools had 50 percent or more of their students at or above grade level/proficient, but they did not meet their goals for growth.

There are 45 schools identified as Low Performing this year, or 2.1 percent of all schools. Eighteen of the Low Performing schools are charter schools, and three are the state's schools for the deaf. Two of the Low Performing schools are alternative schools, and one is a school run by the Division of Juvenile Justice.

Two other categories of recognition also are named, the 25 Most Improved K-8 Schools, and the 10 Most Improved High Schools. These categories are based on the amount of improvement during the school year, regardless of how many students are considered to be at grade level or proficiency.

School performance under the ABCs will again mean incentive bonuses for many teachers and other certified personnel. For schools classified as making Exemplary Growth/Gain, teachers and other certified personnel will receive gross pay of $1,500 and teacher assistants will receive $500 bonuses. Eligible personnel at schools that meet Expected Growth/Gain will receive gross pay of $750 for teachers and other certified personnel and $375 for teacher assistants. A total of 64,701 certified teachers and other personnel will receive incentive awards totaling $92.3 million this year. More than 18,000 teacher assistants also will receive incentive awards totaling $9.5 million. Incentive funds will be made available to local school systems in mid-August for distribution.

In addition to rewards to high performing schools, the ABCs also provides assistance to schools that need additional help to improve. A number of low-performing schools are chosen each year to receive mandatory assistance based on the percentage of their students at or above Achievement Level III, considered to be grade level, and their lack of achieving growth/gain. Since the start of the ABCs of Public Education, most schools assigned assistance teams have turned their performance around and achieved at a higher level, often even exceeding their growth/gain goals in the year after.

The ABCs of Public Education, a reform effort begun in 1995, emphasizes accountability at the school level; instruction in the basics of reading, writing and mathematics and core courses at the high school level; and control at the local level. The ABCs accountability model began in 1996-97 for schools serving grades K-8. The model uses end-of-grade tests, already in place since 1993, and the state writing test at grades four and seven to measure student academic growth from year to year. In 1998-99, results from end-of-course tests given to middle school students were added to the model.

High schools were included in the 1997-98 school year with end-of-course tests focusing on five core courses required of all high school graduates. These courses are Algebra I; English I; Biology; Economic, Legal and Political Systems; and U.S. History. Student growth/gain is measured in the following ways: end-of-course test results; results from the English II writing test; the NC Comprehensive Test of Reading and Mathematics (which looks at growth from end of grade eight to end of grade 10); a current year-to-baseline comparison of the percentage of students who graduate completing College Prep or College Tech Prep courses of study; and the change in passing rates on the high school competency tests from the end of eighth grade to the end of 10th grade.

The ABCs accountability model is designed to measure achievement and performance with the goal of improving the overall level of student achievement in North Carolina. While the accountability model targets achievement in basic or core subjects, the entire North Carolina Standard Course of Study covers a broader range of subjects which all students should study.

For additional information, contact the DPI's Communications Office at 919/715-1246, or the Division of Accountability Services at 919/715-1348.

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