Education

Achievement gap frustrates Chapel Hill-Carrboro school leaders

“We are not a great district with these kind of scores,” said Joal Broun, chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.
“We are not a great district with these kind of scores,” said Joal Broun, chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The racial achievement gap persists in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, but officials see signs of improvement.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction recently released its accountability results, which include schools’ letter grades based on student proficiency and growth on year-end math and reading exams. Growth compares students’ predicted score with actual test results.

The district met 24.2% of 265 goals set under the Every Student Succeeds Act, long-term goals aimed at closing gaps between high- and low-performing subgroups.

For instance, it decreased the gap between black and other students in graduation rates, as well as ACT scores, where the difference fell from 32 percentage points in the 2017-18 school year to 21 percentage points in 2018-19. The target was 26.8 percentage points.

In future years, the school district wants to reduce office referrals for black male, Latino, black female and students with disabilities.

To help increase staff diversity, the district had set a goal of having all interview committees diverse by race and gender. In actuality, 76% of committees were diverse by race and 60% were diverse by race.

The district had also set a target of increasing people of racial and ethnic minorities hired in certain positions by 40%. It increased it by 31.8%.

Math, reading scores

In math, black students in grades 3-8 trailed the state average, but outperformed the state in 11th grade, although it was close: 34% college ready for the district vs. 30% for the state.

In reading, for grades 3-8, black students outperformed the state. Latino students outperformed the state as well. But for black students in 10th grade, the difference was within one percentage point.

But, overall, 94.4% of schools met or exceeded growth, up from 77.8% in 2017-18. And 94.4% of district schools scored an A or B on school report cards, up from 88.8% last year.

For the state, 75% of schools met or exceeded growth, and 37% of schools earned an A or B.

Across the district, all groups of black and Latino students either met or exceeded growth.

School board Chairwoman Joal Broun was did not paint as rosy a picture.

“There are other places in the state that do it better,” she said at Thursday night’s board meeting. “I understand we have a world-class university here, but there are places like Jones County, Chatham County, that do it better with less. ... We are not a great district with these kind of scores.”

Broun went on to call part of the cause the “culture.”

“We need to stop acting like we’re progressive when we really aren’t,” she said. “We’re better than some places in the state, but we should judge ourselves by what we say about ourselves.”

Superintendent Pamela Baldwin conceded, “We are nowhere near where we want to be.”

“But I want you to know that I appreciate all the work that you do,” she told staff Thursday night. “I want you to know that the process off the work I see you do every single day is appreciated, and as we continue this work we’ll do this work together with support from our community.”

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