Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ Graduation Rate Grows for 9th Straight Year

Press Release from WS/Forsyth County Schools

Seniors in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools graduated at a higher rate for the ninth consecutive year, with 85.7 percent of the class of 2016 graduating in four years, according to results presented today to the State Board of Education.

WS/FCS students’ science scores increased, while reading and math scores showed small decreases. Almost two-thirds of schools met or exceeded their growth goals in the fourth year that North Carolina used more rigorous standards to measure academic progress.

“I am happy to see the gains in the graduation rate and science, but it is critical that we make greater strides in all areas,” Superintendent Beverly Emory said. “So this summer, we began working on what we call our ‘imperatives,’ which are based on our core values of student-centered, accountability, collaboration, equity, high expectations and integrity.”

The results were released today under the NC READY accountability program. These include graduation rates, proficiency levels on end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, academic growth and school performance grades.

“The data makes our work clear,” Emory said. “However, we are fortunate to have community support behind us. Efforts such as Project Impact and the Peer Project will help us accomplish our district goals.”

Over the past seven years, WS/FCS’s graduation rate has increased 14.9 percentage points from 70.8 in 2008. The rate increased from 85.4 in 2014-15 to 85.7 last year. The percentage of students graduating in five years also increased from last year, from 85.1 to 86.3. The state’s four-year graduation rate in 2016 was 85.8 percent, and its five-year rate was 87.5.

The graduation rate has increased with the help of a community pledge to raise it to 90 percent by 2018. The United Way of Forsyth County, the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, Graduate. It Pays, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and The Forsyth Promise have each supported programs to help students graduate.

“We remain committed to our goal to raise the graduation rate to 90 percent by 2018,” Emory said. “As we get closer, we must do all we can to help our students graduate prepared for college and careers.”

More than 95 percent of students graduated in four years from Early College and Atkins and Reagan high schools. Five other schools – East Forsyth, Middle College, Mount Tabor, West Forsyth and Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy – had graduation rates greater than 90 percent.

Other results released today include how students did on the end-of-grade and end-of-course tests that measure proficiency. The current scale reports the percentage of students who are grade-level proficient (GLP) and the percentage who are college-and-career ready (CCR). The GLP measure includes students who score at Level 3 and above and show at least sufficient command of the material. Students at Level 3 could be college and career ready with additional support.

In Forsyth County, 50.8 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at Level 3 and greater in reading, and 49.1 percent scored at Level 3 and greater in math, compared to 52.0 percent and 49.2 percent the previous year. In science, 68.8 percent of WS/FCS students scored at Level 3 or greater, compared to 63.8 percent last year. Across the state, 56.9 percent and 54.7 percent were proficient in reading and math, while 71.6 percent were proficient in 5th grade science and 73.9 percent were proficient in 8th grade science in 2015-16.

Using the CCR measure, 41.0 percent of WS/FCS students in grades 3-8 were proficient in reading and 42.3 percent were proficient in math, compared to 41.8 percent and 41.7 percent the previous year. In science, 59.7 percent of students were proficient, compared to 54.6 percent last year. Across the state, 45.8 percent were proficient in reading, 47 percent were proficient in math and 61.8 percent were proficient in 5th grade science and 64.5 percent were proficient in 8th grade science in 2015-16.

“We need to make progress in these areas, but we did see improvements that we will study to see how they can be replicated,” Chief Academic Officer Kenneth Simington said. “We saw this particularly in science and in our summer programs, where 157 third-graders became proficient in reading. That is a tremendous improvement over previous summers.”
Using the GLP measure in high school courses, 53.6 percent of WS/FC students were proficient in Biology, 56.8 percent were proficient in English II, and 55.5 percent were proficient in Math I. Those numbers compare locally to 48.5 percent, 56.3 percent and 60.6 percent the previous year. The state scores in 2015-16 were 55.5, 58.8 and 60.5, respectively.

Using the CCR measure for high schools, 46.0 percent of WS/FC students were proficient in Biology, 48.3 percent were proficient in English II, and 44.9 percent were proficient in Math I. Those numbers compare locally to 41.4 percent, 47.5 percent and 48.1 percent the previous year. In North Carolina, scores in 2015-16 were 47.3, 49.6 and 49.8, respectively.

“Our work this year is rooted in our imperatives, which all schools will be held accountable for implementing with fidelity,” Emory said.

Examples of the imperatives include a balanced-literacy approach to reading, which is student-centered; each school will use professional learning teams and develop a goal for student discipline, which is collaborative; each school will have a goal addressing its achievement gaps, based in equity; each school will have an improvement plan driven by data, based in accountability; and each school will use the multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) to provide interventions for students as a way to ensure that high expectations for students and staff are met.

“We will model integrity by improving our systems of evaluation and feedback,” Emory said. “These are not new initiatives, but we are rededicating ourselves to making sure they are monitored and evaluated.”
Of the 71 schools in Forsyth County that received a growth status, eight, or 11 percent, exceeded their growth goals, and 35, or 49 percent, met their growth goals. Twenty-eight did not meet their growth goals, and nine do not receive a status. Across the state, 73.6 percent of schools met or exceeded their growth goals.

“We are also looking at ways to reorganize our central office to better serve our schools,” Emory said. “We must do a better job of providing support to our leaders and teachers.”

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction began last year assigning each school a letter grade from “A” to “F.” In elementary and middle schools, 80 percent of the grade is based on student proficiency (Level 3 or greater) on state tests in grades 3 through 8 and 20 percent is based on student growth. In high schools, graduation rates, ACT performance and other indicators were used in addition to state tests to calculate the school grade.

In response, WS/FCS released its own school performance grades to better reflect student growth from one year to the next and the challenges of poverty. To calculate a school’s WS/FCS Performance Grade, its state grade was increased one letter grade if the school met or exceeded its growth goals to acknowledge the importance of students going beyond what was expected of them in a year. To reflect the challenges of poverty, the grade was given a ‘+’ if more than 85 percent of a school’s students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

In the 2015-16 school year, 5 schools received an A+ on the WS/FCS scale. Fourteen schools received an A; 13 schools received a B; 13 schools received a C+; 8 schools received a C; 4 schools received a D+; 7 schools received a D; 8 schools received an F+; and 0 schools received an F.

In the state’s performance grades, seven schools received a letter grade of A+ or A. The plus indicates that the school did not have a significant achievement gap that was larger than the largest state average achievement gap. Sixteen schools received a B; 16 schools received a C; 23 schools received a D; and 10 schools received an F.

For the second consecutive year, North Carolina labeled schools that received a performance grade of D or F and did not exceed their growth goals as low-performing. In WS/FCS, 32 schools were named by the state as low-performing, an increase from 29 the previous year.

“We believe the leadership programs and supports we began to put in place last year are long-term solutions that will help students in these schools,” Emory said. “It’s also important to understand that 15 of these schools met their growth goals.”

North Carolina has had a school accountability program since 1996 and began using NC READY in 2012-13. NC READY measures academic growth and the percentage of students who are proficient in measured courses, as well as:

  • End-of-grade assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8
  • End-of-grade assessments in science in grades 5 and 8
  • End-of-course assessments in Math I, Biology and English II in high schools
  • The percentage of students with a composite score of 17 or greater on the ACT, which is the UNC System minimum admissions standard
  • The percentage of graduates taking and passing a higher-level math course, such as Math III
  • The percentage of concentrator graduates awarded silver level or better on the ACT WorkKeys assessments
  • Four-year and five-year graduation rates

More detailed statistics and results are available HERE.