The number of Wilkes County schools meeting or exceeding expected student academic growth and the number assigned an A or B both increased in the 2018-19 school year, according to an annual accountability report from the State Board of Education.

“We believe that every student who walks through our doors should show academic growth each year, and these results reflect the hard work of our teachers and students in making this happen,” said Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd.

“Other than student safety, I believe academic growth of students is the most important part of our job, and the people of this county should be proud of what our students and teachers are accomplishing.”

Academic growth

Nearly 82% of Wilkes schools (18 of 22) met or exceeded expected academic growth in 2018-19, up from 16 in 2017-18. About 75% of the state’s public schools met or exceeded expected growth.

Among the 18 schools in 2018-19, seven exceeded expected growth. They were Wilkes Early College High School, North Wilkes High, East Wilkes Middle and Moravian Falls, Mountain View, North Wilkesboro, and Wilkesboro elementary schools.

The 11 that met expected growth in 2018-19 were West Wilkes and East Wilkes high schools, West Wilkes and Central Wilkes middle schools and Boomer-Ferguson, Mulberry, Ronda-Clingman, Roaring River, Millers Creek, Mount Pleasant and Traphill elementary schools.

C.B. Eller and C.C. Wright elementary schools, North Wilkes Middle School and Wilkes Central High School didn’t meet expected growth in 2018-19.

In 2017-18, not meeting growth expectations were Central Wilkes Middle; East Wilkes and Wilkes Central high schools; and Mountain View, Roaring River and Boomer-Ferguson elementary schools.

Exceeding expectations in 2017-18 were Moravian Falls, Ronda-Clingman and Wilkesboro elementary schools and Wilkes Early College High School.

The 12 that met expected growth in 2017-18 were North Wilkes and West Wilkes high schools; East Wilkes, West Wilkes and North Wilkes middle schools; and C.B. Eller, C.C. Wright, Millers Creek, Mount Pleasant, North Wilkesboro, Traphill and Mulberry elementary schools.

Moravian Falls Elementary had the highest school growth score (94.6) and Wilkes Central High had the lowest (57.6) in 2018-19.

“We are so proud of the students and staff of Mountain View Elementary” for exceeding expected growth in 2018-19, after not meeting expected growth in 2017-18, said Byrd.

He also said he was proud of North Wilkesboro Elementary for exceeding expected growth for the first time in six years, East Wilkes High for meeting expected growth for the first time in six years and Moravian Falls Elementary for exceeding expected growth for the sixth year in a row.

School letter grades

Eleven (half) of Wilkes schools earned grades A or B in 2018-19, up from eight (36%) in 2017-18. About 37% of public schools statewide earned grades A or B in 2018-19 and 35.5% in 2017-18.

Wilkes Early College High School was the only Wilkes school assigned an A in 2018-19, 2017-18 and 2016-17. It’s the only Wilkes school that has received an A since schools were first assigned grades in 2013-14. Byrd noted that fewer than 10% of schools statewide get an A.

Mountain View Elementary was tagged a “low-performing school” and received a D in 2017-18. Wilkes had no low-performing schools and none were assigned a D in 2018-19. It was only the second year no Wilkes school received a D.

The 10 Wilkes schools with a B in 2018-19 were East Wilkes, West Wilkes and North Wilkes high schools; East Wilkes and West Wilkes middle schools; and C.B. Eller, Moravian Falls, Mulberry, Ronda-Clingman and Wilkesboro elementary schools.

The seven with a B in 2017-18 were North Wilkes and West Wilkes high schools and C.B. Eller, Moravian Falls, Mulberry, Traphill, Ronda-Clingman elementary schools.

A grade of C was assigned to the remaining 11 Wilkes schools in 2018-19 and the remaining 13 in 2017-18.

Byrd said he still doesn’t agree with the method of calculating school letter grades, but added, “I am pleased with the success that our schools are having in terms of performance grades.”

Basis for assessments

Eighty percent of a school’s letter grade is based on the percentage of its students earning an EOG or EOC test score considered grade-level proficient and the other 20% on growth, measured by a statistical model that compares each student’s predicted test score, based on past performance against actual results.

Whether a school exceeds, meets or doesn’t meet expected academic growth is based on end of grade (EOG) reading and math test scores in grades 3-8 and English and math end of course (EOC) test scores in high schools.

According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, school letter grades and academic growth measurements for 2017-18 and 2018-19 aren’t comparable to those of prior years due to changes in accountability formulas. New math tests were given in 2018-19.

Graduation rates

The Wilkes high school four-year graduation rate was at 88.1% in 2018-19, up from 87.9% in 2017-18. Byrd said the Wilkes high school graduation rate should be above 90% and that he has confidence it will be in the near future.

Also in 2018-19 in Wilkes, the graduation rate for female students was 90.1% and for male students it was 86.2%. Graduation rates among races were 86.3% for white students, 94.7% for black students; 93.8% for Hispanic students; and 91.3% for two or more races. It was 86.4% for economically disadvantaged students and 66.7% for homeless students.

Graduation rates for individual high schools in 2018-19 were Wilkes Early College High School, 94.3%; East Wilkes, 90.2%; Wilkes Central, 90%; West Wilkes, 87.8% and North Wilkes, 83.2%.

The state graduation rate was 86.5% in 2018-19.

Other academic results

The Wilkes County schools also had a 4.4% increase in proficiency in eighth-grade reading and a 14.9% increase in proficiency in eighth-grade math.

C.B. Eller Elementary had the highest overall reading EOG score at 74 and North Wilkes Middle had the lowest at 56. Moravian Falls Elementary had the highest math EOG score at 85 and North Wilkes Middle had the lowest at 53.

Other increases in academic proficiency in the Wilkes schools included sixth-grade math, up 5.1%; seventh-grade math, up 6.1%; eighth-grade science, up 6.5%; and fifth-grade science, 4.3%.

Byrd said he was especially proud of a 7.1% increase in proficiency in third-grade reading. He said the hard work of Wilkes teachers in grades K-3 is evident and students in those grades are clearly being prepared for success at higher grade levels.

There was little improvement in reading scores statewide.

High school biology EOC scores were Early College High, 94.3; West Wilkes, 73.6; North Wilkes, 66.7; East Wilkes, 53.3; and Wilkes Central, 51.4.

West Wilkes Middle had the highest science EOG score with 88.6 and C.C. Wright Elementary had the lowest at 67.2.

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