The percentage of North Carolina students testing at grade level on state standardized tests moved up last school year. That means fewer schools will be labeled D or F on the school grading system.
Math and Reading Scores Move Up
Students' biggest gains in the 2015-2016 school year were in math. The percentage of students who scored at grade level in math rose in grades 3 to 8, and in Math I--that's every grade tested. In 2015-2016, 54.7 percent of students tested at grade level in math, up 2.5 percentage points from 2014-2015.
"There's always more to do," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "But we're headed in the right direction."
Overall, students' reading scores also ticked up slightly by 1 percentage point. But reading scores were spottier. Despite the state's focus on improving third grade literacy through a program called Read to Achieve, the percentage of third and fourth graders who passed the reading test went down compared to the prior year.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said one reason for the drop is that more students are entering kindergarten without having gone to pre-school.
"Without quality preschool, then our schools have a lot more work to do to catch up students," she said.
Atkinson also said the loss of teacher assistants and high teacher turnover in the lower grade levels may have contributed to the decline in the portion of students testing at grade level in 3rd and 4th grade reading.
At the high school level, in addition to gains in Math I, students also performed better in biology. But they lost ground in English II. The portion of students testing at grade level in English II also fell slightly.
Despite overall gains for the second straight year since the state adopted the more rigorous Common Core standards, still less than half of North Carolina students tested at grade level in both reading and math. The portion of students who tested at grade level in both subjects is at 45 percent, up from 43.5 percent the year prior.
Fewer D and F schools, More A, B and C Schools
The state gives each public school a grade based on how well its students do on their end of year tests and whether their scores grew as much as expected. The state has 111 fewer schools earning a D or F this year, and 62 more schools earning an A or B. But low school performance grades are still highly correlated with poorer student bodies. State Superintendent June Atkinson said those schools face more challenges.
"For our schools receiving a D or F, I would encourage you to look at growth and to look at the resources that that school may have in comparison to other schools," she said.
Graduation Rate Rises Again
The state's graduation rate has risen for the tenth year in a row, with 85.8 percent of North Carolina students graduating high school within four years, up from 85.6 percent in 2015. State Superintendent June Atkinson said the state has come a long way since it reported a graduation rate of 68.3 percent in 2006.
"If I could do a back flip about the graduation rate, I would do that," she said.
While the state's overall graduation rate is above 85 percent, rates for certain groups of students are much lower. Low-income and Latino students have a four-year graduation rate of just over 80 percent. English-language-learners have a rate of 57.1 percent.