School progress reports show strengths, weaknesses across the board
by Morgan Smith
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Matthews and Mint Hill can pat themselves on the back, as graduation rates continue to rise.
Butler, Independence and Providence high schools increased their graduation rates during the 2010-11 school year, according to the recently released CMS school progress reports. Independence had the lowest graduation rate at 76.4 percent. The reports were originally released in January, but were taken out of the public eye when errors were found in some of the statistics.
The Matthews-Mint Hill average graduation rate rose from 82.8 percent in 2009-10, to 84.9 percent in 2010-11. That’s compared to the current district wide rate of 73.5 percent, up from 69.9 percent in 2009-10.
Rocky River High School did not have a graduating class last year since the school only opened its doors in 2010. Rocky River’s first group of seniors will graduate this June.
Independence High School raised their graduation rate 4.4 percent last year, from 72 percent in 2009-10 to 76.4 percent. The school might have the lowest graduation rate in the area, but they did show the greatest growth over last school year.
Principal Amy Dellinger has been at Independence since November, and said although she can’t take credit for the growth in 2010-11, her faculty and staff can, and since she’s been at the school, several more programs have been put into place to continue growth.
“Basically, what we have put in place is educating our students more frequently about taking ownership over their own education, starting with freshman,” Dellinger said. “Not only are the counselors meeting with their seniors, but administrators are meeting with them as well.”
Dellinger added the main goal is to make sure students have the support system they need to succeed. She said her staff and administrative team are working in conjunction with counselors to check-in with students as much as needed to ensure they are on track to graduate. The school also is incorporating parents’ nights for parents of struggling students to establish a plan of action for their students.
“Some students may need that extra push and motivation … different students need different things and we are providing everything we possibly can,” Dellinger said. “Basically we’re all a team – helping (students) focus to be the person they want to be, and so much counts right now. They’ve worked 13 years for this opportunity and it’s a privilege to walk across that stage. I really do believe we’ll have even more growth this year.”
Around 87.2 percent of Matthews-Mint Hill students tested at or above standard, compared to the district wide rate of 80.7 percent. Some numbers were rounded because of federal privacy regulations with percentages that are greater than 95 percent or less than 5 percent.
The CMS goal is to have 90 percent of students performing at or above standard by 2014. But overall, performance dropped last year for both Matthews-Mint Hill high schools and the district high schools, with a 3.4 percent drop in Matthews and Mint Hill and a 2.6 percent drop district-wide. One factor that may have affected Matthews and Mint Hill was the addition of Rocky River High in the mix. In its first year, 78.7 percent of Rocky River’s students performed at or above grade level.
For area middle schools, overall their average performance rates stayed steady, with a less than one percent increase or decrease in reading science and overall, but saw a 1.4 increase in students performing at or above grade level in math. In Matthews and Mint Hill, 88.8 percent of CMS middle school students performed at or above grade level overall, while the district average stands at 76.2 percent, both performing well above the CMS average.
Area elementary schools stayed relatively the same, with 86.3 percent of Matthews-Mint Hill students performing at or above grade level in 2010-11, compared to 86.7 percent in 2009-10. District-wide, 75.6 percent of elementary students performed at or above grade level last year.
Crown Point and Lebanon Road elementary schools are the lowest performing elementary schools in Matthews and Mint Hill.
At Lebanon Road, Assistant Principal David Prybylo said one thing the school’s progress report doesn’t show is school growth, and although the school only has 69.3 percent of students performing at or above grade level, lower than the CMS average, the school was recognized by the state last year for their growth shown in the end-of-grade tests.
“That means that our students received more than a year’s worth of instruction in a year’s worth of time,” Prybylo said. “They grew more than most students in North Carolina. You can see that we are moving kids farther along than other schools—it’s just we’re starting farther behind.”
Prybylo also explained several new initiatives the school has implemented over the past couple of years including more hands-on and discovery learning.
One new initiative the school started this year is fourth and fifth grade departmentalization where teachers become specialists in content areas rather than generalists like most elementary teachers.
“We’re recognizing that the content is beginning to be complicated enough that we need content specialists teaching that,” Prybylo said. Fourth-and fifth-grade teachers have focus areas in either math and science, or reading and social studies.
“We don’t know if it’s successful yet, but students and teachers are responding well,” he said.
Eighty-five percent of the school’s population is currently on free and reduced lunch. The school is not currently a Title I school, but has already been named Title I for next year, he said.