Student performance on state tests improved this year, with higher scores on elementary school math and science exams driving advances.
North Carolina’s four-year high school graduation rate inched higher, to 85.8 percent from 85.6 percent.
Results of standardized tests the State Board of Education released Thursday show uneven progress in reading. The state has put an emphasis on elementary reading over the last few years. A 2012 law requires that most students read proficiently by the end of third grade.
The percentages of third and fourth graders reading well enough to succeed at the next grade dropped slightly from last year, according to the test results, while the percentages of students passing math increased in all elementary and middle grades.
Public school students take standardized reading and math tests at the end of third through eight grades, and science tests in fifth and eighth grades. High schools students take state tests in biology, Math I and English II.
These tests, along with calculations of student growth, are combined to create school performance grades of A-F. On the whole, the grades are improving. The state has fewer ‘F’ and ‘D’ traditional and charter schools than it did last year, and more ‘C’, ‘B,’ and ‘A-plus’ schools. Test scores make up 80 percent of grades for elementary and middle schools. Student growth makes up 20 percent of their grades. High schools use standardized test scores, the percentage of students who pass Math III, and other factors to determine performance grades.
As in past years, the results show a connection between school poverty and letter grades. Most of the schools that received Fs were high poverty schools where 80 percent or more of the students were economically disadvantaged, according to a News & Observer analysis. No school where fewer than 40 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged received an F.
The Wake County school system saw also saw gains on state exams and the graduation rate.
The percentage of Wake County students passing state exams in math, reading and science rose to 67.9 percent during the 2015-16 school year. It was at 66.8 percent the previous school year. The Wake school system remains well above the statewide proficiency rate of 58.3 percent.
An area Wake County school leaders are highlighting Thursday is how the district’s graduation rate rose a full percentage point to 87.1 percent. The state’s largest school system has the goal of having at least 95 percent of students graduating by 2020.
Wake also saw gains in the number of schools meeting academic growth targets on state exams. Out of 167 schools, 68 percent met or exceeded growth expectations. It’s up from 61 percent the previous year.
Statewide, 74 percent of schools met or exceeded academic growth targets in the 2015-16 school year.
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