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Improved school scores celebrated

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Coopers Elementary School fifth-graders Haley Frazier, 10, left, and Haley Grounds, 10, right, work on watercolor paintings as Joey Saputo, 11, second from left, and Ethan Williams, 12, sketch on Monday during Kristin Gibson's art class at the school.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools is celebrating some of the success stories that emerged in this year’s school data despite its current standing as a low-performing school district.

One of the notable successes was Coopers Elementary School in Elm City. The school earned a B rating this year — one of the few times a school has earned this rating in the district and the first time an elementary school in the district has broken the C grade barrier.

Allison Williams, principal of Coopers Elementary School, said her school is also celebrating the achievement.

“We are very excited,” Williams said. “And as my staff celebrates, the kids are excited as well. This is really because of what they have done.”

Williams credits the hard work of her staff for the progress the school has made.

“I have an incredible staff that is willing to do whatever they can to do what helps these children succeed,” Williams said. “When the school district gave us new guidelines, we hit the ground running, didn’t make any excuses and worked as hard as we could to make sure students got what they needed.”

Coopers Elementary School is a Title 1 school with roughly 575 students in grades K-5 in addition to about 50 pre-K students. Williams said the school has a strong family atmosphere and really comes together as a community.

The strong parental support makes a difference, too, Williams said.

“We have a huge parent-teacher organization that supports us and makes sure that teachers have what they need in the classroom,” Williams said.

While the success of Coopers Elementary School is one cause for celebration, Chad Thompson, executive director for high schools at Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, said that the success of M.B. Hubbard Elementary School is just as exciting.

Hubbard Elementary School earned a C in the 2018-19 school performance grades and exceeded growth. While this seems like a more modest achievement, this marks an important threshold for the school.

“This is the first time in five years that the school has exited low-performing status,” said Robin Griffin, director of accountability, testing and data analysis for the school district.

The school district did make some improvements this year, but overall the school performance rankings remained about the same. The school district’s graduation rate of 84.2 percent also remained roughly the same as last year, Griffin said.

This year one school, Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School, made an A in the school performance grades and Coopers Elementary earned a B. Ten schools earned Cs, eight earned Ds and eight earned Fs.

The school district’s graduation rate of 84.2 percent also remained roughly the same as last year, Griffin said.

In comparison, last year, one school earned an A, nine earned Cs, 11 earned Ds and 6 earned Fs.

One reason for more F-rated schools this year is that CITI High School joined the ranks of schools in the district this year. In its first year of accountability, the school earned a 15 school performance score — a resounding F.

However, Thompson and Griffin explained that the score is deceptive.

“There are eight accountability factors for high school including ACT scores and test scores that were not reported at the school this year because CITI High School only had ninth-grade students. So they only had the Math 1 score to go by — a test that is a new assessment and a new norm. But the formula used for that school is the same as if it had all grades,” Griffin said.

Thompson said that it will take the school several years to accurately reflect the achievement as more grades are added to the school and indicators used only by juniors and seniors are included.

Growth scores also improved this year. Though only four schools exceeded growth — the same as last year — 10 schools met growth this year compared to seven last year.

Thompson said he does feel the school district is headed in the right direction.

“We have just gone through a new textbook adoption for grades 4-12. The teachers were heavily involved in those decisions, so I feel we now have resources that meet the needs of students and teachers better,” Thompson said.

The school district also adopted a new Letterland phonics-based reading program for grades K-1 last year. That program will extend to second grade this year and is showing promising results.

“We had to invite 200 fewer students to the summer reading academies this summer because they were proficient in reading,” Thompson said. “But those results aren’t reflected on school performance grades until grade 3.”

This is another factor that accounted for the school district remaining in low-performing status this year, Griffin said. This year, for the first time, K-2 schools were counted in the formula that determines low-performing school districts. But because these grades don’t have end-of-grade tests, their school performance score reflects their sister school’s score. For instance, Williford and Fairview Elementary Schools are given D.S. Johnson’s school performance scores because they feed into that school.

Thompson has hopes that the school district will see more success stories in the future.

“A lot of things are lining up and there are good indicators of more improvement in the future,” Thompson said. “But improvement just doesn’t happen overnight.”

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