State of Our Schools: Durham schools moving in right direction, leaders say

Jan. 23, 2013 @ 08:47 PM

Durham Public Schools still have work to do to fully achieve goals in their strategic plan by next year.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, school leaders, teachers and community members took a break to celebrate how much they’ve accomplished in the past year.
Hundreds gathered in Fletcher Hall at the Carolina Theatre to hear Superintendent Eric Becoats review the status of six strategies in a plan that aims to make Durham an educational nerve center with high-quality teachers and high-performing schools.
“Durham’s rich diversity will strengthen us, not divide us,” Becoats said in the State of Our Schools presentation.
Two strategic goals are tied at 93 percent complete: academic acceleration and talent development. Equitable standards is at 83 percent, while wellness and safety are close behind at 82 percent. Communications and partnerships are at 67 percent. Lagging behind everything else: effective operations, at 41 percent, which includes technology alignment and an energy master plan that require more funding if DPS is going to accomplish those goals by 2014.
Overall, the district has completed 96 of 120 goals, or 80 percent.
On the academic achievement front, which Becoats described as “our bottom line,” DPS is “still a little off the trajectory” in areas such as reading to learn and reading with comprehension, he said.
Elementary and middle school mathematics, on the other hand, is on target or a little above in some cases. The district’s proficiency in Algebra I, however, sits at 63.3 percent, below the goal of 80 percent by 2014.
Becoats also noted ongoing gaps in reading proficiency in Grades 3 and 5 between white students and African-American and Hispanic students.
Last year, 77 percent of qualifying DPS high school seniors graduated, which puts the district on target to hit 80 percent next year. The combined SAT score needs work, though. Becoats wants that score to reach 1,650. Last year, the district only managed 1,399.
Students in all middle schools achieved growth in the last academic year. However, 80 percent of the high schools and 83.3 percent of the elementary schools reported successful academic growth.
The DPS website is relaunching with a new design, including a section dedicated to the strategic plan so that the community can track the district’s progress and maintain transparency.
The district has accomplished a lot, Becoats said, but “at the same time, we have much farther to go.”
Heidi Carter, chair of the DPS Board of Education, offered words of encouragement.
“Although we have a lot of work to do, our schools are moving in the right direction,” she said.
Vice-chair Minnie Forte-Brown agreed: “We have the resources and people committed to serving every child.”

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On the Web: For more information on Durham Public Schools, visit