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Fifteen Cumberland schools drop off state’s low-performing list, report says

2021-22 testing data affirms district’s ‘Great Comeback’ efforts, school leaders say


Cumberland County Schools administrators on Thursday heralded the news that 15 schools in the district were removed from the state’s list of low-performing schools based on end-of-grade and end-of-course test results.

The report on school performance for the 2021-22 school year was released Thursday by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The report said that the district’s student achievement results are beginning to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

Click here for a video report on Cumberland County Schools assessment data.

The results are based on an analysis of end-of-grade (EOG) and end-of-course (EOC) tests, which are used to assess proficiency in English language arts and reading and mathematics and the science. 

At a news conference to discuss the test results, Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. was joined by Kim Nash, executive director of data and accountability; Jane Fields, associate superintendent for school support; Stacey Wilson-Norman, chief academic officer; and John McMillian, principal of Lewis Chapel Middle School.

Lewis Chapel was among the middle schools with the greatest composite gains.

The state’s accountability report includes performance and growth data for schools and districts across North Carolina. Nash defined growth as the actual performance of a student versus the predictions of how well a student will perform based on a number of factors, including tests.

In his opening remarks, Connelly said the district has overcome incredible challenges, from the disruption caused by the pandemic to teacher shortages. And, because of COVID-19, the accountability report is the first since the 2018-19 school year to include all the state’s accountability framework.

“Test results are only one of many ways that we measure the progress we are making in our district,” Connelly said.

But, he added, the accountability results demonstrate the “incredible work” happening in Cumberland County Schools.

Nash highlighted the major results of the report. In reading, English, math and science, various grades in the district had in increase in proficiency over last year but did not surpass proficiency levels reported in 2018-19.

For example, in 2018-19 — before the pandemic — the district’s performance composite was 54.7% in grades three through 12. In 2019-20, the scores dropped to 36.8%. In 2021-22, those scores rose to 47.3%.

In grade-level proficiency for grades three through five, the composite reading proficiency (combined grades) rose from 36.6% to 43.1%. In 2018-19, the composite reading proficiency was at 55.3%. For math, the composite proficiency scores were 45.1% in 2021-22 compared with 28.9% the previous year. The math composite score was 54% in 2018-19.

Fifth-grade science proficiency scores were 73.3% in 2018-19, 45.9% in 2020-21, and 62.2% in 2021-22.

The trend continued for middle schools. Grade-level reading proficiency scores in grades six through eight were 47.1%, up from 42.6% in 2020-21. The 2018-19 score was 53.9%.

The composite math score for middle schools was 46.8% in 2018-19, 28.9% in 2020-21, and 36.8% for 2021-22.

The grade-level proficiency rating in high school grades nine through 12 includes biology, English 2, and Math 1 and 3. For years 2018-19, 2020-21, and 2021-22, the composite scores were 58.5%, 36.7% and 50.8%, respectively. For English ll, the scores were 56.9%, 53.9%, and 55.7%, respectively. For Math 1, the scores were 41.6%, 19.2%, and 35%. And for Math 3, the respective scores were 43.2%, 29.6%, and 50.9%.

High school ACT scores for 2021-22 were lower than in both previous years. Nash said the University of North Carolina system raised the standard from 17 to 19, resulting in a lower percentage of students reaching the new benchmarks. Also, graduation rates decreased during the past three years. The district’s 2021-22 four-year graduation rate dropped to 82.8%, compared with 84.2% in 2020-21.

Schools that showed the greatest composite score gains include:

Elementary schools: Warrenwood, Ponderosa and Mary McArthur.

Middle schools: Reid Ross Classical, Lewis Chapel and Luther “Nick” Jeralds.

High schools: Cape Fear, Pine Forest and Douglas Byrd.

“While we have much more work to do, we need to pause and celebrate the accomplishments of teachers and students,” Connelly said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education reported that reading and math performance saw the steepest decline in decades. The report cited the pandemic, classroom disruptions and violence, and a shortage of teachers as the causes.

Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at jbrady@cityviewnc.com.


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