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NC school grades, test scores and grad rates land this week

Last year Community House Middle School was one of 17 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to earn an A based on student test scores.
Last year Community House Middle School was one of 17 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to earn an A based on student test scores. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Get ready for the latest round of school letter grades, which are bound to spark a mix of chest-thumping and eye-rolling.

On Wednesday the N.C. Department of Public Instruction will release the grades, along with proficiency rates on reading and math tests and high school graduation rates.

It’s the second year the state has graded public schools (including charters) on an A-F scale, based on how students did on standardized exams.

Last year 17 percent of CMS schools and 5 percent of NC schools earned an A.

7 percent of CMS schools and 6 percent of NC schools earned an F.

Critics say the grades, which reflect a mix of student proficiency and growth, tell more about a school’s demographics than its academic quality. Schools where most students come from poverty dominate the Ds and Fs, while those in affluent neighborhoods, along with magnets and charters that attract the highest-performing students, get most of the As.

Because the system was new, last year’s grades didn’t come out until February. This year’s will be more timely – and contrary to what state officials said in February, they will be comparable to first ratings. A proposed shift to a tougher grading scale, which would have pushed more schools into lower ratings, was postponed.

This year will also bring a new A+ grade, for schools that not only meet the standards for the top grade but where the gaps between racial and economic groups are no greater than state averages.

As I’ve said many times over the years, numbers never give a full picture of any school. But they provide a framework for questions and strategies, and the more data you look at, the fuller picture you get.

On Wednesday, we should see:

▪ Growth results for all schools. They can be labeled as having met, not met or exceeded the expected progress during the past year.

▪ Reading, math and science results for elementary and middle schools. Tests are graded on a five-point scale; a 3 or higher is considered at grade level, while a 4 or 5 is considered on track for college and career readiness.

▪ Results on high school Math I, English II and Biology exams, the ACT and the ACT “WorkKeys” tests.

▪ On-time graduation rates and a “math rigor” rating based on the percent of high school students who successfully complete Math III.

School report cards for 2014-15 will come out later this fall, with additional data on teacher qualifications.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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