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NEWS RELEASES 1998-99 :: JULY 7, 1998


Preliminary results of North Carolina's lowest performing schools, 15 schools designated by the State Board of Education in August 1997, show that assigning assistance teams to schools makes a difference in student achievement.

State Superintendent Michael E. Ward and SBE Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. presented the preliminary results for these schools and talked about a new initiative to provide assistance to more schools that need help at a news conference today.

Ward said that the preliminary results from the lowest-performing schools show that, with focus and quality instruction, all students will learn. He commended the students, staff, parents and communities of the low-performing schools for their hard work and commitment to school improvement.

Fourteen of the 15 low-performing schools made their expected growth. Of those 14 schools, 13 reached exemplary status by achieving at least 10 percent above expected growth. The fifteenth school, which did not make expected growth, received the adequate performance designation for the 1997-98 school year.

In the 15 schools, 43 percent of the students were at or above grade level in 1996-97, and 53 percent were at or above grade level at the end of the 1997-98 school year.

The growth standard is the expected growth rate for that particular school based on the school's previous performance, statewide average growth and a statistical adjustment used to compare test scores of students from one year to the next. The growth results do not include the number of students at or above grade level - an area where these schools still need improvement. Schools that meet or exceed their growth rate are moving more of their students to the grade level standard as indicated by the 10 percent increase in the percentage of students in these schools who are now at or above grade level.

Certified staff in the schools that made exemplary status will each receive incentive awards of up to $1,500 and teacher assistants in those schools will receive up to $500 each. The schools are located in urban and rural, large and small counties across North Carolina.

"North Carolina can be very proud of the work of the assistance teams and the faculties in the low-performing schools. Preliminary results provide the evidence that the assistance team process we used to help low-performing schools made a difference in student achievement," Ward said. He added that the 10 percent increase in the percentage of students at or above grade level in these schools is a significant increase and the challenge is to continue growth in these schools.

Assistance teams of 3-5 educators each worked in the 15 schools all year. Their work included establishing relationships with the school staff, working with the staff to align the instructional program of the school with the Standard Course of Study, modeling and demonstrating effective instructional practices, coaching and mentoring teachers, and helping locate additional resources for the schools.

Local school systems also provided extra help to these schools. This assistance included equipment/materials, volunteers, funding, staff, facilities' improvements, and training.

To help continue the progress made by the lowest performing schools, the state will provide limited assistance to these schools in the coming school year.

Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. called today's results "a strong indication that North Carolina's public schools are on the right track." He said, "I want to commend our school administrators, assistance teams, teachers, students, parents and communities for working together to put our children and their education first. We still have a lot of work to do, and we all have a responsibility to make sure our schools succeed."

The State Board is committed to broadening the assistance to more schools that are low-performing. SBE Chairman Phil Kirk announced the formation of NC HELPS, North Carolina Helping Education in Low-Performing Schools. This effort is a joint project of the Governor's Office, university system, community colleges, and State Board/ Department of Public Instruction.

NC HELPS will provide financial resources (from state and federal funds) and professional development for teachers and school administrators to build and sustain their capacity for long-term change. Services will include needs assessments, evaluation of personnel, data analysis, curriculum alignment, mentoring, research, classroom management and other development assistance. Needs of low-performing schools will be matched with agencies, businesses, and others that may have the expertise needed by the schools.

Other states have tried various forms of assistance or intervention in schools and systems that are low-performing. Success has been mixed, particularly at the district level. North Carolina is believed to be one of the first states to show significant results from the intervention process.

The ABCs focuses on the basics of reading, writing and mathematics in grades K-8, and on the core courses in high school. ABCs results in grades 3-8 are based on student testing in reading, writing (grades 4 and 7) and mathematics. This model measures student progress from one year to the next.

Under the accountability model of The ABCs of Public Education, the State Board designates student performance school-by-school. K-8 schools were a part of the model in 1996-97 and high schools became a part of the model in 1997-98. The complexity of high schools resulted in the Board delaying this model for one year. This model will continue to be revised by the Board.

The ABCs is the first time that student performance has been reported at the school level. This was one of the requirements set by the General Assembly when it directed the State Board to restructure the state's public schools to improve student performance, increase local flexibility and control and promote economy and efficiency. The ABCs plan was presented to the General Assembly by the State Board in May 1995. Official ABCs results for all schools in the state will be approved by the State Board of Education on August 6.

For additional information, contact DPI Division of Communication Services, 919.807.3450 or Division of Accountability Services at 919.807.3769


About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.