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NEWS RELEASES 2005-06 :: AUGUST 4, 2005


North Carolina students' proficiency rates dipped slightly in 2004-05, and 69 percent of schools met or exceeded academic growth expectations, according to accountability results approved by the State Board of Education today as part of its August meeting.

"North Carolina is a leader in school accountability and school improvement. From the beginning, we focused our accountability model on academic growth for every student," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee.

"We know that teachers and principals are working very hard to improve student achievement, but we have reached the difficult part of our task now: reaching the students who are most at risk and helping these students maintain steady improvement. We will maintain that focus next year as we introduce new growth formulas that are based on the realities of 2005," Lee said.

This marks the final year that school accountability will be measured with the original growth formulas of the ABCs of Public Education, North Carolina's nearly 10-year-old school accountability program. North Carolina's accountability program was one of the first in the nation to measure academic growth of students from year to year, as well as measuring overall proficiency of students. The state is now poised to enter a second generation of its accountability program with the 2005-06 school year when new growth formulas go into effect. The State Board approved this change in May 2005 after a comprehensive review of the original formulas and their capacity to accurately reflect the academic growth of schools.

The ABCs accountability model measures school achievement in two primary ways: the percentage of students' test scores at or above the proficient level (performance composite) and whether the school has met growth expectations based on changes in average scale scores for the same students from one year to the next. Since the original growth formulas were developed, North Carolina's curriculum and assessments have changed. Each time changes of this type have occurred, equating studies have had to be done in order to link the new assessments to the previous ones. In this way, North Carolina has been able to measure academic achievement growth from year to year. As North Carolina schools have moved farther away from the original circumstances in place when the ABCs model was developed, it has become clear that the formulas for growth needed to be updated.

In 2004-05, results of the ABCs growth formulas showed that the formulas' effectiveness had decreased at the middle school level. As a result, middle school growth appeared unusually low for the second year in a row. Last year, when this occurred, the State Board of Education considered a variety of options, including calculating middle school growth without including sixth grade reading, the measure most affected by the formula's effectiveness. This year, because this phenomenon occurred for a second consecutive time, Board members chose to approve the ABCs results with sixth grade reading removed from the growth formula calculations. Sixth grade reading is only one of the six measures of middle school performance in the ABCs growth calculation. This action does not affect individual student scores and was one that was endorsed last year by the ABCs Compliance Commission for Accountability, an advisory group to the State Board. The Commission is comprised of teachers, principals, central office staff, and representatives of business, parents and higher education.

"The ABCs model is 10 years old," Lee said. "We saw indications last year that the formulas were becoming less effective. This year, with two years of growth data indicating the same problem, we chose to approve the ABCs growth results without sixth grade reading because the old formulas simply were not holding up at the middle school level. This decision provides local communities with a better reflection of how middle schools are performing and it also is more fair to middle school teachers and principals."

School designations set

In 2004-05, 490 schools, 21.9 percent, earned a designation as Honor Schools of Excellence, the highest category. Honor Schools of Excellence also met the federal requirement of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Forty-six schools ( 2.1 percent) are Schools of Excellence, which means that they met at least Expected Growth and had 90 percent or more of their students' test scores at or above the proficient level.

A total of 601 schools, or 26.8 percent, are designated as Schools of Distinction, which signifies that they met at least Expected Growth and had 80-89 percent of their students' test scores at proficient or better.

A total of 273 schools, 12.2 percent, are Schools of Progress, which means these schools met at least Expected Growth and had 60-79 percent of their students' test scores at proficient or better.

Six hundred seventy-four schools, or 30.1 percent, are No Recognition schools. These schools did not meet their Expected Growth goals even though they had 60-100 percent of their students' test scores at the proficient level or better.

Fifty-five schools, 2.5 percent, are Priority Schools — schools with less than 60 percent of their students' test scores at the proficient level or better and making Expected Growth or High Growth and schools that have 50-59 percent of students' test scores at the proficient level or better regardless of growth.

In 2004-05, 69 percent of all schools made Expected Growth or High Growth. This is down from the 75 percent that met Expected Growth or High Growth in 2003-04.

Incentive awards

The ABCs program provides incentive awards to teachers, principals and other certified school-based staff, in addition to teacher assistants. In all schools that attain the High Growth standard, certified staff members each receive up to $1,500 incentive awards and teacher assistants receive up to $500. In schools attaining Expected Growth, certified staff members each receive up to $750 and teacher assistants receive up to $375. This year, the cost of incentive awards is anticipated to total approximately $94 million.

Assistance teams assigned

This year, four schools were identified as Low-Performing Schools. These schools have significantly less than 50 percent of their students' test scores at the proficient level or above and did not make Expected Growth or High Growth.

The State Board of Education approved the assignment of a State Assistance Team to the following schools: Northwest High School and Southeast Halifax High School, both in Halifax County; and T. Wingate Andrews High School and Middle College High School at NC A&T, both in Guilford County. Assistance teams of experienced educators have been assigned to some low-performing schools each year since the ABCs began to help these schools improve academic performance.

Achievement gap status

Achievement gaps among groups of students remained consistent. The percentage of elementary and middle school students performing at or above the proficient level on the multiple-choice tests, also called grade level on both the reading and mathematics tests across grades 3-8, is 80.9 percent for the state as a whole. This percent is down from 81.3 percent last year statewide. Grade level performance is considered to be minimal preparation for success at the next grade level. In 1996-97, the first year of statewide implementation of the ABCs, 61.7 percent of students were considered proficient in both reading and mathematics.

A total of 89 percent of white students in grades 3-8 scored at or above grade level or proficient in both reading and mathematics. This is slightly below the 89.2 percent proficient last year. The percentage for black students was 67.2 percent, down from 67.7 2003-04.

For Hispanic students, 71.4 percent performed at or above grade level in 2004-05, down from 71.7 percent in 2003-04. For American Indian students, 72.5 percent performed at or above grade level in reading and math in 2004-05, down from 73.6 percent in the previous year.

For Asian students 88.6 percent were at or above grade level this year, which is the same percentage as in 2003-04. For multiracial students, 83.2 percent performed at or above grade level on the tests, down from 84.8 percent in 2003-04.

AYP targets more challenging in 2004-05

AYP is a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind education law. Each state must set AYP targets for the percentage of students proficient on state tests with an eventual goal of reaching 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14. AYP requires measuring progress on these targets by groups of students. Because schools must meet every AYP target for every group of students in order to meet AYP for the school, this is a very rigorous standard that was made even more challenging in 2004-05 because the targets were raised for that year as part of the strategy to eventually reach 100 percent.

A total of 56.3 percent of all schools met AYP, a change from 2003-04 when 70.5 percent made AYP.

ABCs background

The ABCs results for 2004-05 released today provide school-by-school performance results for all of the state's 2,242 schools that were assigned an ABCs status. North Carolina's accountability model was implemented in 1996-97 in K-8 schools, and then in high schools in 1997-98. The ABCs model emphasizes accountability at the school level and instruction in basic, core subjects. To determine growth, the model uses end-of-grade tests in grades 3-8 in reading, mathematics and computer skills (grade 8 only) for the performance composite at the elementary and middle school levels and prediction formulas for the end-of-course tests at the high school level.

At the high school level, the accountability measures are more numerous and include student performance on the mandatory end-of-course tests. These are: Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, English I, Geometry, Physical Science, and Physics. Other measures include the percentage of students completing College/University Prep or College Tech Prep courses of study, change in the competency passing rate between grades 8 and 10 and the ABCs dropout rate.

For more information about the ABCs report, please contact DPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450. The complete ABCs report is available online in a searchable format at

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.