Graduation rate rises at CMS; overall test scores decline

State test scores declined overall for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, according to results released by the district recently, and the graduation rate rose by nearly three percentage points.

The district showed improvement in seven of 22 areas tested, district officials said. Scores rose slightly in math for grades four and seven, reading in grades six, seven and eight and science in grades five and eight. Scores declined in seven of eight areas tested for high school students, and stayed flat in one.

Tenth-grade writing tests showed a slight decline, although CMS continued to outperform the state in writing.

“We are disappointed that we did not make more progress this year,” said Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh. “Although we are pleased with the growth in our graduation rate, we would have liked to see more improvement in specific tested areas. We will work in the coming year to identify areas where we can improve.”

The greatest improvement in district test scores was in science, where scores improved by five points in grades five and eight. Reading improved by one point in grades six, seven and eight, and math by two points in grades four and seven (all calculated without including retests). Scores stayed flat in fifth- and sixth-grade math and in third- and fifth-grade reading.

High school scores declined in seven areas and stayed flat in one. Biology scores stayed flat. The largest declines were reported in Algebra I (eight points) and Algebra II (six points). Scores declined in English I and History by three points, by two points in tenth-grade writing and by one point in physical science.

The district’s growth scores – how much more than one year’s progress was made in a year’s time – also declined, although Hattabaugh noted that the district was still making more than a year’s growth on average in all areas.

“These numbers are important measures of how well we’re closing the achievement gaps,” Hattabaugh said. “We are glad to see we are still making more than a year’s growth on average, but we’d like to see those numbers rise, too.”

The state test results are also used to calculate the district’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results for individual schools. Adequate Yearly Progress is part of the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which sets targets for school districts. The targets increase periodically, with the goal being that all students make AYP by 2014. The targets were raised in 2010-2011, raising the bar that districts must clear. Using the increased standard, 48 of 171 schools in CMS made AYP, or 28.1 percent. That compares to 28.7 percent a year earlier.

The district also reported that 18 Title I schools were added to the list of schools in improvement, meaning they did not meet AYP targets. No schools left improvement status and none made steps toward exiting improvement status. The total number of Title I schools in school-improvement status for 2011-2012 is 28. Schools in the first year of school improvement do not face sanctions; they are expected to identify areas in need of improvement and work on them. In subsequent years, schools must offer Supplemental Education Services to students, and parents may opt to put their children in another school.

The full presentation of state test scores and AYP calculations is attached.