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Nearly half of ABSS schools get Ds and Fs on state grades

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The state Department of Public Instruction has issued its annual school performance grades, along with End-of-Grade and End-of-Course test scores, for the 2021-22 school year, marking the first time that the complete results have been released in nearly four years.

Thirty-four ABSS schools received A to F school performance grades in 2018-19, the last academic year for which the grades had been issued prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent statewide school shutdown. ABSS has since added a school, the Alamance Virtual School, which opened in the fall of 2021; as a result, 35 ABSS schools received A-F letter grades for the 2021-22 school year.

The state eliminated annual year-end testing altogether for the 2019-20 school year and released minimal academic performance indicators for 2020-21 after receiving a U.S. Department of Education waiver to do so.

[Story continues below charts.]

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[See comprehensive table of scores at the end of article.]

For the Alamance-Burlington school system, 45.7 percent – or 16 out of 35 schools that received an A to F letter grade – received the lowest marks, a grade of D or F, in 2021-22, according to DPI’s annual report on student achievement.

In releasing the academic results for the 2021-22 school year, state and local education officials have repeatedly pointed to the disruptions in learning that public school students have experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

[Story continues below.]


See other ABSS coverage in this week’s edition:

Graduation rate falls, both overall and at 4 of 6 high schools: https://alamancenews.com/four-year-graduation-rate-drops-1-4-percentage-points-to-85-9-percent-in-2021-22/

Supt. removes LGBTQ book from Western High library: https://alamancenews.com/supt-removes-lgbtq-book-from-western-high-library/

Read the newspaper’s editorial page opinion on the superintendent’s action removing book from school library :  https://alamancenews.com/thank-you-dr-butler/


ABSS moved to online instruction in March 2020, after Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order directing the state’s 115 public school systems to close for in-person classes due to rising cases of Covid-19. All 115 public school systems ultimately remained closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year; and most, including ABSS, continued online instruction through much of the subsequent 2020-21 school year. ABSS student initially returned to school in-person – for two days per week – in March 2021, and later returned for five days per week for the 2021-22 school year.

For 2021-22, only one (2.8 percent) of the 35 ABSS schools – which now include the Alamance Virtual School that opened at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year – received an ‘A’ grade: the ABSS Early College housed at Alamance Community College’s Graham campus.

Four ABSS schools (11.4 percent) received Bs: Smith Elementary school; Western Middle School; and Eastern and Western High schools (see accompanying charts).

Fourteen ABSS schools (40 percent) received Cs, including: eight elementary schools; three middle schools, and three high schools.

Seven schools (20 percent) received Ds: five elementary schools; one high school (Cummings); and one combined school, the Alamance Virtual School, which has elementary, middle, and high school grades, but is only counted once and issued a single letter grade of D for all three grade spans.

Nine ABSS schools – which represents 25.7 percent of all ABSS schools that received the grades and four times the number that received Fs in 2018-19 – received a school performance grade of F, DPI’s report reveals. Fs were issued to six ABSS elementary schools (Eastlawn, Grove Park, Haw River, Hillcrest, Newlin, and North Graham) and three middle schools (Broadview, Graham, and Turrentine).


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The A to F school performance grades and academic testing results are not reported for the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) in Burlington, where students take specialty classes during part of their instructional day; nor are they reported for the alternative school, Ray Street Academy in Graham.

Instead, End-of-Course test scores and other academic performance indicators for those students are reflected in the results for the high schools to which they are assigned, based on the location of their residences.

End-of-Grade (EOG) test scores account for 80 percent of the letter grade that each elementary and middle school receives.

The remaining 20 percent of each school performance grade represents the amount of academic progress that students made from one year to the next, or what is termed “growth,” according to DPI. [Figures listed on the accompanying chart represent the percentages of students in grades three through eight who were performing at grade level in math and reading, as well as the percentage of 5th and 8th grade students who were performing at grade level in science.]

At the high school level, the A to F letter grades reflect multiple components, including: scores on End-of-Course exams (EOCs) in English II, Biology, and average passing rates in Math 3; the four-year graduation rate; as well as scores on ACT/WorkKeys tests, which are intended to gauge career and college readiness.

DPI bases its school performance grades on a 15-point scale:
• A: 85-100
• B: 70-84
• C: 55-69
• D: 40-54
• F: 39 and below

For the 20 ABSS elementary schools that received A to F performance grades, 12 received a lower grade in 2021-22 than they had in 2018-19; six schools experienced no change; and two (Smith and Sylvan) received a higher grade than they had four years ago.

For the seven middle schools, two received a lower grade in 2021-22 than they had in 2018-19 (Hawfields went from a B to a C grade and Turrentine went from a D to an F); four experienced no change; and one, Western Middle School, went from a C in 2018-19 to a B in 2021-22, according to DPI’s report.

For the six traditional ABSS high schools, two received a lower grade than they had in 2018-19 (Cummings went from a C to a D and Williams, from a B to a C); two received a higher grade (Eastern and Western both went from a C to a B); and two (Graham and Southern, both with Cs) experienced no change.

The ABSS Early College remained the only ABSS schools, out of the 35 that received school performance grades, to receive an A grade. It also received the only A grade for ABSS in 2018-19, according to DPI.

The Alamance Virtual School, which had a total of 479 students enrolled as of the end of the first month of the 2021-22 school year, received a school performance grade of D for all three grade spans: elementary, middle, and high school.

DPI officials said Thursday that, statewide, the academic results for 2021-22 are “predictably lower than 2018-19 [and] are not objectively comparable to previous years, given the numerous factors that disrupted instruction during the last three years.”

For his part, ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler, who took over as superintendent in July, said Thursday that the school system has implemented a new “intervention enrichment period” at all schools for the 2022-23 school year in order to help students catch up.

Approximately 1,170 ABSS teachers – representing about 77.5 percent of 1,510 ABSS teachers who responded to questions about the “pandemic impact” on instruction in an online survey earlier this year for the state’s biennial “Teacher Working Conditions Survey” – reported that their students’ academic progress was between three and 12 months where it would’ve been at the same point during a typical school year. (Fewer than 20 percent of ABSS teachers who responded to that portion of the survey said their students’ progress was the same as it would be during a typical school year.)

Butler also highlighted a few bright spots in DPI’s academic report for 2021-22. Twenty-nine ABSS schools met or exceeded overall growth,” Butler said Thursday, referring to what DPI characterizes as the amount of academic progress that students make from one year to the next. “Furthermore, 14 of those 29 schools exceeded overall growth, which is the highest achievement.”

The superintendent also said Thursday that ABSS experienced significant improvement in math, with 26 elementary and middle schools meeting or exceeding academic growth targets in that subject, while 22 elementary and middle schools met or exceeded “growth,” Butler said, adding that only elementary schools receive growth scores in reading and math.

The 2021-22 academic results for ABSS have not yet been publicly presented to school board members.

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