Open thread: Do our schools make the grade?

Students headed back to school this past week in the wake of an ABCs of Public Education report that gave local school systems mixed grades. What do you think of those grades? And what grade would you give your child’s school?

The only Asheville City School that made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year under the state’s ABC program is the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences (SILSA), a small honors school serving 195 students on the campus of Asheville High.

Last year, three of the city’s schools achieved AYP (Hall Fletcher, Vance, and SILSA). However, each year, the ABC standards are higher than the previous year’s, because the goal of the program is that North Carolina schools meet required federal AYP mandates by 2013-2014 under the No Child Left Behind law. Each year, a school must reach all, or 100 percent, of the program’s annual target goals to earn AYP status — in the program’s multi-year march toward the final 2013-2014 year, when schools must meet standards set by the No Child Left Behind law.

Although eight out of Asheville’s nine schools failed to meet this year’s federal AYP standards, city officials touted improved graduation rates and other ABC measurements. In other words, officials have been calling attention to our schools’ progress, despite their failure to meet the year’s AYP standards. Asheville City Schools achieved an 80.7 percent graduation rate in 2011, the highest rate since the new state graduation model was implemented five years ago — a seven-point gain from the previous year. In addition, five city schools (Hall Fletcher, Isaac Dickson, Claxton, Vance and SILSA) were given “high growth” status by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, which administers the accountability program. Interestingly, some area media outlets chose to highlight those successes and omit the system’s failure to meet AYP goals.

Meanwhile in Buncombe County, only two of the county’s 40 schools made AYP: Buncombe County Early College and Pisgah Elementary. Yet on the plus side, 32 of the schools met “expected growth” standards. Of the eight that failed to reach that mark, five were high schools: Reynolds, Owen, Enka, North Buncombe and Roberson.

In view of these shortcomings, Buncombe officials said they’ve already met with principals to discuss how they can improve the scores. And Superintendent Tony Baldwin noted that the county’s graduation rate was 77.9 percent — the highest four-year graduation in the system’s history. Erwin High School’s graduation rate made a particularly notable jump from 60.4 percent to 73.5 percent.

Meanwhile, parents of children enrolled at several local schools, including Issac Dickson and Jones, will receive letters this fall informing them that they’re eligible to move their children to other schools due to the poor AYP ratings. But despite those grades, Asheville City Schools spokesman Charlie Glazener reports that those are two of the most popular schools in the system.

So how relevant do you think these seemingly contradictory reports and grades are for determining the quality of your child’s school and education?

What grade would you give your child’s school?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. (Students, teachers, administrators and anyone else who has an opinion on the matter are of course invited to weigh in as well).

Here are some links to local media coverage to help you learn more about the latest ABC report and its fallout:

Mountain Xpress:
“Only One Asheville School Achieves Adequate Yearly Progress”

“State Releases ABC Scores: Only Two Buncombe Schools Pass”

Asheville Citizen-Times:
“Most Asheville, Buncombe Schools Meet Academic Growth Goals”

The Urban News:
“NC Adequate Yearly Progress Status for Asheville City Schools”

Carolina Public Press:
Gov. Bev Perdue says NC preparing to ask feds for waiver of requirements set by No Child Left Behind education law

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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One thought on “Open thread: Do our schools make the grade?

  1. Jake

    I think it goes without saying that our schools — City and County — have a LOT of room for improvement. Obstacles created by Raleigh will hinder efforts, but everyone needs to push for higher performance. Let’s get to it!

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