Durham Public Schools students again showed improvement on North Carolina end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, pushing the district’s overall proficiency rating to 46.4 percent for the 2016-17 school year, according to the state READY Accountability Results released Thursday, Sept. 7.
The 46.4 percent passing rate is a 1.5 percent increase over the 44.9 rate students posted on the state tests the previous year.
Across the state, 59.2 percent of students passed the state tests.
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The percentage of students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) who passed the state exams remained the same at 76.6 percent.
“I am delighted to receive confirmation that the hard work of our students and staff is producing a quality return. It also speaks to the amazing support of our parents and community,” said CHCCS Superintendent Pam Baldwin. “While it is nice to see comparably high scores, we still have individual students who are not succeeding and, therefore, our work is not even close to being finished.”
In 2016-17, 94 percent of schools in the CHCCS district met or exceeded expected growth. This number is up from 83 percent the previous year. Statewide, 74 percent met or exceeded expected growth last year.
Meanwhile, students in Orange County Schools posted modest improvement on the state tests with the passing rate improving to 63.4 percent from 62.2 percent last year.
DPS’ four-year graduation rate fell slightly to 81.4 percent, down from 82.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year.
Two of the district’s small specialty high schools -- City of Medicine Academy and J.D. Clement Early College -- each enjoyed 100 percent graduation rates.
Four other high schools had graduation rates of 95 percent or better and every traditional high school posted a graduation rate of 80 percent or better.
In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the four-year graduation rate dipped slightly from 90.1 percent to 89. 6 percent.
In Orange County Schools, the four-year graduation rate remained virtually unchanged at 89.1 percent.
“I’m optimistic about the gains in student achievement, and I’m looking forward to building on that success for opportunities that lie ahead,” said Superintendent Todd Wirt. “Each year, we hope to make gains in all areas for all students. “We have high standards and expectations for our students and teachers, and these achievements speak to their work.”
The statewide graduation rate was 86.5 percent, up from last year’s 85.8 percent, which was a new high for North Carolina.
While acknowledging there is still much hard work to do, DPS officials welcomed the small, but steady academic gains the district has made the past few years.
“We have impressive teachers and principals, and a strong academic team in central office with a plan for leading our schools to greater improvement,” Superintendent Bert L’Homme said in a statement. “We are also ramping up our systems of support for our students and schools, because we know that we have to overcome and eliminate historic inequities to ensure that every child makes the grade.”
The test scores were released shortly after State Board of Education officials approved the hiring of DPS’ Stacey Wilson-Norman as the chief academic officer for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI).
Wilson-Norman is currently DPS’ deputy superintendent for academic services. Her start date at NCDPI has not been established.
“Dr. Wilson-Norman has played a vital role in our district’s improvement over the years and has been a trusted colleague as deputy superintendent for academics,” L’Homme said. “I congratulate her on her next step and wish her the very best.”
Like last year, three DPS schools — J.D. Clement Early College, City of Medicine Academy and Mangum Elementary School — were all rated A-plus schools, the state’s highest distinction under its controversial letter grade system.
Middle College rated an “A,” just missing out on A-plus designation.
Five DPS schools were rated “B” schools, 18 “C” schools, 14 “D” schools and nine “F” schools.
Also, 78 percent of district schools met or exceeded expected academic growth. Eight of 13 high schools exceeded state academic expectations.
The tests cover reading and math in third through eighth grades, science for fifth- and eighth-graders and end-of-course tests in three high school subjects.
The tests are intended to measure whether students are prepared to move to the next grade level.
Blacks, Hispanics make small gains
Durham’s African-American and Hispanic students made small gains on state tests but the achievement gap when compared to their white peers remains wide.
In Durham, students of all races showed improvement with the exception of Hispanic males who passed the tests at virtually same rate as last year, posting a 35.6 passing rate compared to 35.7 last year.
Black males continued to trail all others with a 32.9 percent passing rate, but saw a two percentage point gain over the 30.9 percent passing rate posted a year ago.
The passing rate for black females increased 1.2 points to 39.8 percent compared to 38.6 percent a year ago.
Meanwhile, the passing rate for Hispanic females improved 2.5 points to 41 percent compared to 38.5 percent a year ago.
The passing rate for white males increased to 77.4 percent, a slight increase over the 77.0 a year ago.
White females led the way among DPS students, posting an 82.6 percent passing rate, 2.3 points better than the previous year.
Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645