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NEWS RELEASES 2008-09

NEWS RELEASES 2008-09 :: NOVEMBER 6, 2008

HIGHER STANDARDS SIGNAL NEW EXPECTATIONS FOR
NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS

North Carolina public schools felt the full effects of new, increased standards for reading in 2008 as fewer students earned passing scores on the state's end-of-grade tests in reading and fewer schools and districts demonstrated performance at the highest levels under the state's school accountability program, the ABCs of Public Education.

North Carolina has been working to raise standards over time because students need to perform at higher levels so that they can graduate high school prepared to be competitive in today's labor market and at the community colleges or universities. These higher standards also better align North Carolina's expectations with the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as "The Nation's Report Card."

The new standards were established this summer by panels of practicing North Carolina teachers and were approved by the State Board of Education at its October meeting. This effort marked the first comprehensive increase in reading proficiency standards since the ABCs model began in 1996.

Alongside the higher standards, the NC Department of Public Instruction has developed a statewide system of support to help struggling schools and districts improve student achievement. During the 2008-09 school year, NCDPI is providing direct support to 165 schools and six school districts to help them increase student achievement. The department also has helped to train and place 200 literacy coaches in North Carolina middle schools across the state. And last year, the General Assembly increased funding to expand the More at Four program. This statewide academic pre-kindergarten program currently works to make sure 28,000 at-risk 4-year-olds are prepared to enter elementary school ready to learn and succeed.

The state's 2008 increase in reading standards comes on the heels of increased mathematics standards in 2006.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said, "The information we are providing to you today looks similar to the results of the first year of the ABCs in 1996-97. Back then, we knew that our teachers and students would rise to that challenge and they did. That is why we know that they will rise to the challenges presented by the new standards that are in place today.

"What is important in North Carolina is that we have new goals and new levels of support to help our schools move students forward."

"We believe that raising standards is the right thing to do on behalf of North Carolina students," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee. "We know that our students need to learn at higher levels in order to be successful, particularly in today's workplace. To expect basic competency or less is not responsible."

On the 2008 reading and mathematics assessments, a total of 52.6 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level on both general tests given in grades 3-8. Reading performance ranged from 52.5 percent proficient at the 7th grade to 60.9 percent proficient for 4th and 6th grades. Math performance ranged from 68.6 percent proficient at 7th grade to 74.8 percent proficient for 3rd grade.

Today's report also includes information about schools' performance on Adequate Yearly Progress, a measure required under the federal No Child Left Behind law and schools' performance designations under the North Carolina ABCs of Public Education model.

In 2008, 31 percent (748 schools) met the standards for Adequate Yearly Progress. A total of 69 percent of schools (1,664 schools) did not make Adequate Yearly Progress. A total of 551 schools entered Title I School Improvement or continued in School Improvement, triggering sanctions that may include public school choice, supplemental educational services for qualified students, and other actions. Twenty-two schools exited School Improvement based on their 2007-08 performance. More complete information about NCLB, AYP and School Improvement is available online at www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb.

Under the ABCs model, schools are given specific designations based on their performance. The 2008 numbers for each category are as follows:

CATEGORYNO. OF SCHOOLSPERCENTAGE
Honor Schools of Excellence 29 1.2
Schools of Excellence 4 0.2
Schools of Distinction 204 8.4
Schools of Progress 1,089 45.0
No Recognition Schools 220 9.1
Priority Schools 701 29.0
Low Performing Schools 101 4.2

Definitions of each category are as follows:

  • Honor Schools of Excellence made at least expected growth, had at least 90 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III and made AYP. These schools receive banners and certificates.
  • Schools of Excellence made at least expected growth and had at least 90 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III but did not make AYP. These schools receive banners and certificates.
  • Schools of Distinction made at least expected growth and had at least 80 percent of students' scores at or above Achievement Level III but did not earn one of the top two designations. These schools receive plaques and certificates.
  • Schools of Progress made at least expected growth and had at least 60 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III, but did not qualify for the top three designations. These schools receive certificates.
  • Schools Receiving No Recognition did not make their expected growth goals and had at least 60 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III.
  • Priority Schools have less than 60 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III, irrespective of making their expected growth standards and are not Low-Performing Schools.
  • Low-Performing Schools failed to meet their expected growth standards and have less than 50 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III.

NCDPI staff are evaluating the list of schools identified as low performing to determine the additional services these schools will receive. The plan for this work will be provided in December.

In addition to the reading and math results in grades 3-8, this year, North Carolina tested science in grades five and eight. At grade five, 41 percent of students were proficient in science. At grade eight, 53 percent of students were proficient in science. Science assessments are a new requirement for all states under No Child Left Behind, but results are not included in the state's ABCs model for accountability.

In addition to the new science tests, end-of-grade tests are required of all students in grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics and end-of-course tests are required of all students taking Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, English I, Geometry, US History, Civics and Economics, Chemistry, Physical Science and Physics.

The 2008 ABCs reporting schedule was slightly different than in typical years. In 2008, there were new reading assessments. When there are new assessments, all student test forms are collected at the end of the school year and several analyses are done to set the achievement levels. This process takes time, so the date for reporting complete results is later in the year.

ABCs growth measures were released in August for 2008. This year, the new reading assessments were not included in the growth calculations in recognition of the timeline for setting the standards. Eighty-two percent of schools met their expected or high growth standards, qualifying them for incentive awards. These awards, capped in the 2008 budget bill this year at a total of $94.3 million, provided awards of up to $1,053 for each certified staff member in high growth schools and up to $527 for certified staff in expected growth schools. Teacher assistants received awards of up to $351 for high growth and up to $263 for expected growth. These funds have already been distributed to local school districts.

For more information about the 2007-08 ABCs/AYP report, please contact the NC Department of Public Instruction's Communications division at 919.807.3450 or go online to http://abcs.ncpublicschools.org/abcs/.

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.