Sept. 25, 2019 – Guilford County Schools plans to build off recent academic successes with the district’s new attendance campaign: “BE HERE TO GET THERE: Attend. Achieve. Succeed.”
When the Board of Education released its 2022 Strategic Plan, IGNITE Learning, in March 2018, the primary focus was on classroom instruction and student achievement. The district developed a more robust curricula, purchased better and more culturally relevant instructional materials and invested more in professional learning. They also changed strategies for teacher recruitment and extended the reach of the most effective teachers and principals, while strengthening career and technical education programming and fostering a greater sense of belonging in classrooms and schools.
The numbers are in and they prove that the strategic investments the Board made is paying dividends in the classroom for students. In recently released results by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for the first time in nearly a decade, Guilford County Schools’ elementary and middle school students scored higher on state tests in every subject and at every grade level. Approximately 73.5 percent of GCS schools met or exceeded growth and GCS reduced the number of state-identified low-performing schools from 42 in 2018 to 36 in 2019.
“As we saw with our accountability results, we’ve made strides but there is still so much work to do,” said Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras. “We have a chronic absence rate of 15.6 percent. That’s approximately 10,000 students who because of various life circumstances, are struggling to attend school and therefore not benefitting from instruction.”
It’s not just a problem in GCS. Nationally, nearly eight million students miss almost a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year. GCS hopes the new campaign will raise awareness of the importance of attendance, and therefore improve the chances of students’ success by keeping them in class.
“We know we must bring this issue of chronic absenteeism under control if we are to close the achievement gap and transform learning outcomes for all students,” said Shontria Carrington, GCS supervisor of dropout prevention and social work. “However, it won’t be easy. This is not just an issue of truancy but also challenges families may face due to health concerns, unreliable transportation and other complications that can be out of a student’s control. This campaign allows us to bring the issue to the forefront of our work and involve our students, families and community in shaping better futures for our children.”
Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows that’s the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance.
Attendance is directly linked to several success indicators at all grade levels. Research shows missing school during the early elementary years makes it more difficult for children to learn in later years. By sixth grade, absenteeism is one of three signs that a student may drop out of high school. By ninth grade, regular and high attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than eighth grade test results.
The student-centered attendance campaign will encourage students to attend class every day to improve their chances of graduation, completing college and succeeding in life. Schools will also participate through regularly scheduled activities that involve students and families.
The Botanical Woodland Teaching Garden is officially open. The block-wide park planted with 76 native trees and shrubs marks the beginning of the planned 6.4-mile Southwest High Point Heritage Greenway.
Located along Richland Creek on a defunct right-of-way in the Southside Neighborhood of southwest High Point, the woodland was designed to raise the quality of life for the low-income residents there. The botanical garden will create an early interest in ecology and the sciences among neighborhood children, provide access to nature, and safe hike and bike paths.
Southwest Renewal Foundation Executive Director Dorothy Darr says the garden’s close proximity to the headwaters of two major watersheds in the North Carolina system will provide ecological benefits too.
“One is the Richland watershed which flows into Richland Creek and then down to the Randleman Reservoir which supplies our drinking water for much of High Point and Greensboro,” says Darr.
The Botanical Woodland Teaching Garden is also at the headwaters of the Cape Fear River Basin.
“It’s the only river basin in North Carolina that flows directly into the Atlantic ocean,” says Darr. “So, what we do upstream, which we are here in southwest High Point, makes a big difference downstream. It not only increases the quality of life for the residents who live around these surface waters but also influences our neighbors downstream and throughout the state.”
The Garden is enhanced by outdoor sculptures and a newly unveiled historical marker honoring Rev. Benjamin Elton Cox. Cox was the pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church in southwest High Point from 1958 to 1968, and an active participant in the civil rights movement. Cox began desegregation efforts in local schools and served as an advisor for the NAACP Youth Council before becoming the executive director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Plans are for the Southwest High Point Heritage Greenway to eventually stretch from the Amtrak station in downtown High Point to the Interstate 85 business loop on the southwest side of the city.
On Sept. 4, the state released the accountability results for the 2018-19 school year. Guilford County Schools’ elementary and middle school students have scored higher on state tests in every subject and at every grade level.
I credit the progress we’ve made to the focused work and collaborative efforts of our teachers, leaders, support staff, students and families. The improvement suggests that the strategic investments our Board of Education has made in curriculum development, instructional materials and supplies, and ongoing professional development for our educators are paying dividends in the classroom for all students.
A few points of pride:
Grade-level proficiency in English Language Arts/Reading in Grades 3-8 went from 52.2% in 2018 to 55.5% in 2019.
Grade-level proficiency in mathematics in grades 3-8 increased from 50.4% in 2018 to 52.5% in 2019.
Students posted the most significant gains in science in grades 5 and 8, with grade-level proficiency rates going from 66.7% in 2019 to 72.4% in 2019.
These increases were made in every racial/ethnic group, a credit to our focus on equity for all students. A special congratulations goes to Southwest Elementary School for having the highest growth index of any elementary school in the state. Nearly three-quarters, or 73.5%, of Guilford County schools met or exceeded growth in 2019, mirroring the state.
The GCS graduation rate held steady at 89.1%, placing GCS higher than four of the five largest districts in the state. Ten GCS high schools posted perfect graduation rates, and eight more had rates above 90% but below 100%. The district has cut the graduation rate gap between various student demographic groups in half during the past 10 years.
High school measures in biology and English II decreased, but remain above 55%. Some of that decrease can be attributed to changes in the process for calculating Math 1 scores, because scores for students who take Math 1 in middle school are no longer counted at the high school level.
The state used a new assessment for Math 3 in 2019, which is also included in high schools’ overall proficiency rate calculations for the first time. GCS’ proficiency rate on the new End of Course (EOC) test was 46%.
Despite these challenges, GCS reduced the number of state-identified low-performing schools from 42 in 2018 to 36 in 2019. More than 34% of GCS schools earned an A or B school performance grade in 2019 as compared to 31.9% in 2018. The number of C schools increased slightly to 31.1% from 29.4, while the percentage of D or F schools decreased from 38.7% to 34.5%. For the first time since 2015-16 all six schools with Alternative Accountability ratings showed that they were maintaining progress. Three of the six schools, Gateway, Scale- Greensboro and Pruette Scale, showed that they were progressing again for the first time since 2015-16. These rating systems were implemented in 2014-15 in which all schools started maintaining status.
I am proud of the successes we’ve seen in the past year. I am also immensely grateful for the Guilford County community and all of our partners who continuously support our schools and embrace our students. I know that our challenges are great and achievement gaps persist.
Nevertheless, I hope you can see the progress we have made as a district as we strive to transform learning and life outcomes for our students.
Thank you for all you do to make increased achievement for GCS students a reality.
GUILFORD COUNTY — The Guilford County Schools honored its top educators, including recognitions of teachers at High Point schools, during an awards ceremony.
The school system held its annual Celebration of Excellence Thursday night at Grimsley High School in Greensboro.
Tammy White was named the GCS Teacher of the Year. She has served as an educator for 25 years and has taught at Kiser Middle School in Greensboro as band director for 18 years.
Ron Luciano, the principal at Jones Elementary in Greensboro, earned the Principal of the Year honor. Under Luciano’s stewardship, Jones Elementary has recorded growth on student performance. In 2018, for the first time since at least 2010, Jones Elementary exceeded expected growth.
Several teachers and principals were recognized during the program, including the Rookie Teacher of the Year and Mentor of the Year.
Loretta Rowland-Kitley, with the Middle College at GTCC Jamestown, was named Secondary Principal of the Year. Lindsey Nail, with Jesse Wharton Elementary, was recognized as Elementary Teacher of the Year.
Liliana Jordanov, with the Middle College at N.C. A&T State University, was named High School Teacher of the Year while Lauren Jackson, with the Herbin-Metz Education Center, was named GCS Mentor of the Year.
Kavaughn Brown, with Mendenhall Middle School, received the GCS Rookie Teacher of the Year honor.
Chris Scott from Monticello Brown Summit Elementary, Erik Naglee from Page High and Arlisa Armond from Southwest Middle School in High Point were Principal of the Year finalists.
Grace Keener-Jones from Eastern High, Coshenda Clark from Johnson Street Elementary in High Point and Ricardo Bernal from Swann Middle were Teacher of the Year finalists.
The GCS Celebration of Excellence was sponsored by Guilford Education Alliance, Ilderton Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram of High Point, Lenovo, Lincoln Financial Group and Strawbridge Studios.
We have been waiting and waiting and WAITING to finally bring to you the first of many of High Point’s Extraordinary Educators’ stories. If you missed our first article describing the story behind the reason for our Extraordinary Educators, you can find it here.
Today, we are kicking off our series highlighting two High Point teachers, Natalya Moore and Michael Holden, high school teachers who make our city great. Read below to learn more about them.
Natalya is more than just a teacher. She’s a justice warrior, a motivator and a purpose pursuer. As a high school English teacher at T.W. Andrews High School, Natalya wants each and every one of her students to feel purposeful and empowered in their studies.
“Having the opportunity to connect with my students each day to help them realize that they matter,” Natalya says, is her motivation each day. “I never want any child to feel ostracized, belittled, inadequate, or unworthy. So knowing I get to put a smile on a face, influence someone’s self-esteem, publicly recognize their positive efforts and actions, and just make kids feel good about themselves gets me excited about going to work every day.”
Natalya was nominated to be one of our extraordinary educators by Andrews principal, Marcus Gause, who said this of Natalya: “She is a stellar educator with a passion to transform the school community and to bring out the best in everyone around her.”
We asked Natalya a few burning questions and here are her responses.
Q. What is your most memorable teaching moment?
A. My most memorable teaching experience was during an assigned debate with my 11th graders. Their arguments were well prepared, points were relevant and current, and their energy was electric. Even when the debate took a turn, my students were sharp in their thinking and really engaged in the process. This was one of the proudest days of my career. It showed me that when motivated, our kids will achieve.
Q. What would you like the High Point community to know about your school?
A. The community needs to know that our school needs its support. The students there are no different than students anywhere else. With proper and sufficient resources, all children can excel. Donate to our academic departments not only our sports programs.
Q. Who or what influences your teaching style?
A. Injustice influences my teaching style. Teaching for me is activism. In addition to performing well on assessments, I want my students to gain knowledge about the world and then feel/be empowered to do something. I do this through the selection of reading material. Reading is central to English class so I make it count.
Q. What is your favorite Book?
A. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. So many great lessons.
Q. If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
A. You have a unique purpose. Work every day to find it and pursue it. Your outside circumstances and/or obstacles are NOT greater than your inner potential. It always seems impossible until it’s done. So, whatever your “it” is, you can get there. Remember that no one wakes up one day and is successful or has what they want. It’s the little steps and milestones you make along the way that make you great.
Natalya is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, and later her master’s in English and African American literature. She also received her School Administration License from Gardner-Webb University.
Our second Extraordinary Educator this week is Michael Holden who was nominated by his principal, Dr. Shelly Nixon-Green. She said this of Michael: “He is an exemplary teacher, webmaster, graduation advisor, student mentor, club leader, and more.” Michael teaches 3D Modeling and Animation and Game Art and Design at High Point Central High School.
“For the uninitiated, 3D modeling is basically how to make the objects or characters that would go into a Pixar movie or video game,” Michael explains. “Game art and design is how to make your own games, including electronic and board games, and how to make them so that people will have fun and want to play again.”
Michael describes his classroom as a place where he wants constructive criticism to flow freely, as it often does in professional design circles. He recalls once when he used a new software – like a big digital whiteboard – to encourage students to brainstorm and then “pitch” a designed environment that the students would create together throughout the year. He gave them space on the whiteboard to work, and space to critique one another’s work, which he hoped would motivate all of them to adapt and build off the feedback.
“I had taught this group of students multiple times before, and historically they were pretty quiet,” Michael says. “Getting them to critique each other’s work was often like pulling teeth. Asking them whose project they liked, and why, was often met with crickets – or worse – one-word answers.”
But as the students worked, Michael noticed that all their quiet was actually giving way to rapid fire brainstorming.
“Several students had finished their preliminary pitches, and there were tons of questions and answers
being written and answered – whole paragraphs of information, and a lot of back-and-forth dialogue,” Michael explains. “Here was all the constructive criticism I’d been looking for all semester – and it was silent, but in a good way. And now I have another way to reach my students.”
We asked Michael more about his work in education in High Point.
Q. What would you like the High Point community to know about your school?
A. There is such a variety of learning happening in our school, and it’s not just in my classroom. School isn’t just sitting at a desk for hours while a teacher drones on about a subject. It’s amazing to see the projects and lessons going on in the classrooms of our school. Teachers at Central do an amazing job at making lessons current, relevant, and interesting. Sometimes I even find myself a little envious at activities I see students doing in their science classrooms, or the field trips I see other career classes going on and, especially, the food being cooked in our culinary classes!
Q. How have you made an impact in the community?
A. I run several clubs at High Point Central and, for the most part, I feel that the students served by these clubs are underrepresented in other extracurricular activities. They don’t participate in school sports, or band, or typical service organizations, or even theatre. These clubs are often just for fun, but they also give these teens a safe space to socialize and just be teens. I think the Tabletop Club (which primarily plays Dungeons and Dragons) is really important. While it is a fun game, it really builds students’ empathy, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. The role-playing in particular is wonderful at building students’ courage and getting shy students out of their shells – and that breeds confidence that finds its way back into the classroom.
Q. How do you show your school spirit?
A. I am mostly a school t-shirt guy, which can be pretty boring – but I augment that by designing a lot of the school’s t-shirts, and even specific ones for my classes. I’m quite excited about a new retro-styled one that I designed over the summer.
Q. What has been the funniest moment in your classroom?
A. At the end of my level one 3D modeling class we learn about “bipeds,” which are basically pre-made human skeletons that you can animate in the software. They can walk around, and you can individually move all their joints to animate all sorts of movement. Inevitably students will figure out that the biped is not restricted in how it moves the way that real humans are, and that usually makes for a hilarious and raucous lesson as they experiment with sillier and sillier motions to have the bipeds attempt.
Michael is a graduate of Virginia Tech where he received his bachelor of architecture degree, and Savannah College of Art and Design where he received a master’s of game development.
North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction says our son goes to a “D” school. The state is wrong. We are in the school constantly, volunteering, working with our university students who intern there, and talking to teachers, students, and school leadership. A “D” isn’t an accurate reflection of the learning that happens there. As professors who teach future teachers and research in the area of educational ethics and policy, we wouldn’t send our kids to failing schools. Luckily, we think most schools in High Point are doing really well.
Let’s be clear: the state grading system was created by politicians. Not educators. Not education policy experts. Not anyone who has a clue how to evaluate educational quality. And it was created the way it is for political reasons, to serve political ends.
The current “grades” are developed out of a formula where 80% of the grade is determined by proficiency and only 20% by growth. Proficiency is simply a measure of if kids are academically performing at grade level. On the surface this makes sense – we want to know if the kids in a school are on grade level. But from an educational quality standpoint, proficiency tells us almost nothing about the quality of the schools, curriculum, or teachers. Why? Because proficiency tracks in almost lock-step with income. As a whole, students living in low-income households tend to come to school several years behind kids from middle-income homes. Public schools have to educate the kids who walk through the door, so low-income schools tend to start with more students who are already behind.
If you want to know if a school is doing a good job teaching kids, then the key question is, “do the kids learn once they are in the building?” The measurement we use for that is school growth. What shocks people is that the schools with the highest growth can have low proficiency. How can this be? Well, the kids in these schools are learning more year-to-year than kids in other schools; they just started farther behind. When we just look at growth – at how much kids are actually learning each year – the best schools in High Point this year were Fairview Elementary, High Point Central High School, Kearns Academy, Johnson Street Global Studies, Southwest Elementary, and Triangle Lake Montessori Elementary.
When we say that High Point has great schools, we aren’t just being cheerleaders. We are looking at the data: the growth data. Kids are learning in High Point Schools. While no single “grade” can capture school quality, if we grade the schools based just on growth (or how much the kids are actually learning in the school), High Point has 6 A schools, 12 B schools, 5 C schools, 1 D school, and no failing schools. Our son goes to a ‘B’ school by that metric. That sounds about right. He’s learning a lot, and we are thankful to all the High Point teachers and principals who ensure that each year our kids are growing and learning.
Below are the grades High Point schools ought to have based on student learning:
Allen Jay Elementary B
Allen Jay Middle B
T Wingate Andrews High B
Fairview Elementary A
Ferndale Middle C
Florence Elementary B
Penn-Griffin Schools C
High Point Central High A
Kearns Academy A
Middle College at GTCC-High Point B
Johnson Street Global Studies A
Kirkman Park Elementary B
Montlieu Academy of Technology C
Northwood Elementary B
Oak Hill Elementary B
Oak View Elementary C
Parkview Village Elementary B
Shadybrook Elementary B
Southwest Elementary A
Southwest Guilford High B
Southwest Guilford Middle D
Triangle Lake Montessori Elem A
Union Hill Elementary B
Welborn Middle C
The narrative about High Point schools won’t change unless we change it. So let’s start reporting the grades that more accurately reflect the efforts of our educators and the learning of our kids.
Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser and Dr. Allie Blosser are professors at High Point University and live in High Point.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Guilford County Schools’ elementary and middle school students scored higher on state tests in every subject and at every grade level in 2019, according to results released today by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
“The numbers are proof that the strategic investments our Board of Education has made in curriculum development, instructional materials and supplies, and powerful professional development for our educators are paying dividends in the classroom for all students,” sand Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras.
Grade level proficiencies increased across the district in English Language Arts/Reading in Grades 3-8 from 52.2 percent in 2018 to 55.5 percent in 2019. The largest gains occurred in fourth and sixth grades.
The increases were posted by all major racial/ethnic student demographic groups, with with students posting a 3.4 percentage point gain, black students posting a 3.5 percentage point gain, Hispanic students posing a 4.3 percentage point gain and Asian students posting a 5.7 percentage point gain.
GCS student grade level proficiency in mathematics in grades 3-8 increased from 50.4 percent in 2018 to 52.5 percent in 2019. Once again, the increases included all major racial/ethnic groups, with white students posting a 2.3 percentage point gain, Hispanic students posting a 2.4 percentage point gain, black students posting a 2.6 percentage point gain and Asian students posting a 2.9 percentage point gain.
Students posted the most significant gains in science in grades 5 and 8, with grade level proficiency rates going from 66.7 percent in 2019 to 72.4 percent in 2019. Students in grade 5 posted a 4.9 percentage point increase, while students in grade 8 posted a 6.5 percentage point gain. Hispanic students had the largest gains in science scores with a 10.2 percentage point gain, followed by black students at 7.1 percent.
The GCS graduation held steady at 89.1 percent, placing GCS higher than four of the five largest districts in the state of North Carolina. Ten GCS high schools posted perfect graduation rates, with 100 percent of all freshmen who entered the school in fall of 2015 graduating within four years.
During the past 10 years, the district has cut the graduation rate gap between various student demographic groups in half. In 2010, for example, there was a 12.6 percentage point difference in black-white high school graduation rates. Today that gap is 5.7 percentage points.
High school measures in biology and English II decreased slightly, but remain above 55 percent. The state is calculating Math 1 differently this year in alignment with federal guidelines.
As a result, scores for middle school students who are advanced enough to take Math 1 (a high school level course) are no longer counted as part of a high school’s proficiency measure for accountability purposes.
For districts like GCS, which encourages students to take Math 1 in middle school so they can tackle calculus and other advanced math courses prior to graduating high school, the formula change is having a dramatic impact. For example, with advanced middle-school students’ scores no longer counted, GCS’ high school grade-level proficiency on the Math 1 End-of-Course (EOC) exam (formerly known as Algebra 1) dropped to 27 percent.
The state used a new assessment for Math 3 in 2019, which is also included in high school’s overall proficiency rate calculation for the first time. GCS’ proficiency rate on the new End-of-Course (EOC) test was 46 percent.
The state also changed how it calculates student growth measures, which typically are more closely correlated with teacher and principal effectiveness. These changes, along with the state’s decision last year to drop high school students’ biology test scores, lowered year-to-year student growth measures and school performance grades at the high school level in GCS.
Despite these challenges, GCS reduced the number of state-identified low-performing schools from 42 in 2018 to 36 in 2019. More than 34 percent of GCS schools earned an A or B school performance grade in 2019 as compared to 31.9 percent in 2018. The number of C schools increased slightly to 31.1 percent from 29.4, while the percentage of D or F schools decreased from 38.7 percent to 34.5 percent.
This year, 73.5 percent of GCS schools met or exceeded growth in 2019 as compared to 74.2 percent in 2018, although this percent mirrors the state.
In North Carolina and nationally, research indicates that student performance on standardized tests correlates most closely to family income. In GCS, more than 71 percent of all schools have student poverty rates of 50 percent or more. Approximately 64.8 percent of all GCS students are considered economically disadvantaged.
As poverty has increased among GCS students, their readiness to learn has been negatively affected. In the fall of 2012, for example, only about 25 percent of entering kindergartners scored below or well below expected developmental benchmarks. In 2018, nearly 50 percent of all entering kindergarten students scored below benchmark, with more scoring well below.
“This is a generational problem that is going to require school partnerships for things that occur outside of our school district such as access to food, healthcare, transportation, the environmental burdens they face and the housing issues they deal with. All of those burdens show up at school. Our educators are not just teaching and learning, they are addressing all of those needs as well,” said Board of Education Chair Deena Hayes.
To access the media briefing report, click here. Click here to read more about the changes in the accountability system North Carolina has made in response to the federal, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To read the letter GCS Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras sent to the State Board of Education regarding growth measures, click here.