On February 5, the NC Department of Public Instruction released the new state report card for schools. The report cards are new because they feature a letter grade for each school.
The letter grade is known as the School Performance Grade, and it is determined by a formula that considers an achievement score and a growth score for each school. Currently that formula weights the achievement score at 80 percent and the growth score is weighted at 20 percent of the School Performance Grade.
The 80/20 split, as you may hear it referenced, is problematic. It fails to acknowledge and reward the work being done at schools exceeding expected growth. A school with a high population of poor students is challenged to move students more than one year’s growth in one year’s time. And even if they do, those same students are likely still behind their middle and upper class peers. Those schools will have lower achievement scores (counting 80 percent) and higher growth scores (counting 20 percent). Their School Performance Grade will be low.
It also fails to challenge schools where high percentages of students are scoring at or above proficiency. A school with a very few poor students likely is challenged to keep pushing high achieving students to grow. Even if those students fail to grow one year’s growth in one year’s time, they likely still demonstrate high levels of proficiency. Those schools will have higher achievement scores (counting 80 percent) and lower growth scores (counting 20 percent). Their School Performance Grade will be high.
WCPSS has numerous schools in each scenario listed above.
It is understandable that the legislature focused on achievement when developing the formula for letter grades. After all, proficiency is achieving at or above grade level. It indicates preparedness for work at the next level. But such a heavy priority given to proficiency fails to challenge our most gifted students and fails to reward our most challenged students.
A better balance of achievement and growth might be achieved with a 60/40 split (achievement/growth). This maintains a priority on achievement. Additionally, it challenges high achieving students to continue growing and rewards students achieving tremendous growth while catching up with their peers.
All students, our most gifted and our most challenged, deserve to be challenged. And all students deserve to have their efforts recognized.