BY KARISSA MILLER

Superintendent Jeff James says Iredell-Statesville Schools recent state test results prove students learn best in-person, rather than remotely.

Superintendent Jeff James

James is proud of the fact that I-SS was one of the first school systems in the state to offer face-to-face instruction to students last year, and he believes that is why the district’s proficiency rates were above state averages.

“Statewide you have reports coming out about how dismal the scores were. With that, I-SS was up in every category in every grade level. We didn’t have any grade levels that were negative,” James said.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, while scores were significantly down across the state our scores were significantly higher. It’s just a testament to all the hard work our teachers are doing and support staff,” he added.

One area where in-person learning helped students is math — a subject that teachers say is particularly hard to teach and learn virtually.

Nearly 61 percent of I-SS students scored grade level proficient for third grade math, according to data from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction released last week. The overall Grade Level Proficiency level for the district is 16.3-percent above the state average of 44.5.

Other math level reading highlights include:

In reading, almost 53 percent of I-SS students scored on grade level for third grade reading. The overall Grade Level Proficiency level for the district is 7.1 percent above the state average of 45.1 percent.

Background

COVID-19 shut down testing in 2019-2020 as all students statewide finished that school year from home.

I-SS Executive Director of Accountability and Student Information Laura Elliot said that because the 2020-21 test was a new test, which was rolled out by the state, “it’s not a fair comparison if you compare it to the 2018-19 scores because it’s a completely different test.”

I-SS Chief Elementary Academic Officer Jonathan Ribbeck agreed. He said that even though the test is different the elementary schools prepared for the EOG tests like they have previously done.

“It’s completed the same as previous years, but the state changes the scoring when they are renormed and that’s why we don’t compare years,” Ribbeck said.

Additionally, state and federal officials waived state accountability scores or letter grades for the second straight year due to the pandemic. These scores are used to report student growth and help identify the state’s highest and lowest performing school districts.

“Students went through a lot with the pandemic. Some were virtual, some were hybrid and students were coming in on different days because we had to social distance — it was a very hard year for all of our students,” Elliot explained.

Top Performing Schools

One I-SS school has continued to make strong gains and saw a majority of their students meet grade-level expectations in all subjects. Collaborative College for Technology Leadership (CCTL) had more than 95 percent of students earn grade-level proficient scores, which means that they are also a state leader school.

Top I-SS Early College and High schools
• CCTL: More than 95 percent
• Crossroads Arts and Science Early College: 89.8 percent
• Agriculture and Science Early College: 80.5 percent

Top I-SS Middle schools
• The Brawley School: 90.5 percent
• Northview School: 85.1 percent
• Woodland Heights Middle: 60.2 percent

Top I-SS Elementary schools
• Woodland Heights Elementary 80.8 percent
• Central Elementary: 78.4 percent
• Lake Norman Elementary: 73 percent

Opportunity for Improvement

There are seven schools that their grade level proficient scores fell below 30-percent, they are:
• Pressly School: 14.4
• Discovery Program at The Springs: 16.7
• N.B. Mills Elementary: 23.8
• Third Creek Elementary: 27.5
• Cloverleaf Elementary: 28.9
• Third Creek Middle School: 19.4
• Statesville High School: 17.9

Subgroups

The state also breaks down how each subgroup did on testing, categories include non-English learners, females, males, Black, homeless, Hispanic, Asian and more.

As a district, the subgroups that fared the best on the third grade EOG Reading assessment were military connected at 74.1 percent, Asians at 71.4 percent and not economically disadvantaged students at 63.4-percent.

The lowest percentage subgroup was homeless students at 15.8 percent on the EOG Reading assessment this year. It was followed by Black students and Students with Disabilities both at 26.1 percent.

Graduation Rates

I-SS graduation rates remained around the same as previous school years, and the district continued to beat the state average. The class of 2021 graduation rate was 87.1 percent, down from 89.1 percent the 2019-2020 school year, but around the same level from two years earlier.

Elliot said that the district will follow the guidance offered by the state board which recommended not comparing the test scores to previous years. She explained that I-SS will use the test data to gauge how to help students recover from learning gaps due to the pandemic.

James said that learning gaps can’t be closed by just the schools.

The superintendent said it’s going to take a community effort, which will involve faith-based organizations, parents, clubs and other organizations.

He said that I-SS has some of the best teachers in the world, but many students are coming in 5 percent proficient in kindergarten while the average proficiency is 35 percent. Teachers have to first close that gap before they can get them on grade level.

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