Though last year’s recently released test scores show a definitive drop because of state-mandated, more rigorous tests, most schools in south Charlotte faired well, meeting or exceeding growth expectations.
But one south Charlotte school is a standout. Ardrey Kell High School is setting the new standard for schools across the state and stands at the top of all Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ high schools in proficiency, as well as the top school to produce the most growth out of all CMS schools.
“I’m a glass-half full kind of guy anyway,” Ardrey Kell Principal David Switzer said about projected lower scores across the state. “We were excited to see where we ranked to other high schools, and I recently learned we tied for fifth-highest growth of all (public) schools in North Carolina.”
It was the first year for North Carolina students to take new, more rigorous tests linked to the Common Core standards, replacing the end-of-course and end-of-grade tests from earlier years. The standards, which were designed to ensure students graduate from high school ready to enter college or a career, focus on higher-level, critical skills in reading, math and science rather than memorization. The new tests also require higher scores to earn a proficient rating or above.
The results provide information on individual schools’ proficiency rate, or passing rate that measures students performing at or above grade level, which in most schools significantly dropped from previous years. Results of the tests also measured growth. Growth goals, which are set by each school’s standards, are based mainly on results of tests taken in previous years and measure whether a student has achieved a year’s worth of growth.
The overall CMS performance composite of 47.2 proved to be a cut above the state’s rate at 44.7 percent. Called the Ready program, the new tests measure academic progress using standardized end-of-grade tests in reading and math for third through eighth grade and science for fifth through eighth grade. End-of-course tests were given for high school students in math I/algebra I, English II and biology.
“These tests are going to be a hard transition, and it will take awhile,” CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison said about last year’s lower scores and the prospects of improving them in the future. Morrison spoke to a group of community members at a recent MeckEd-sponsored discussion about the scores. “As painful as this is, this is something we have to do and we’re going to take this on the best we can.”
Scores showed students at Ardrey Kell High School had the best performance composite in algebra I, English II and biology across the district, Switzer said. Overall, they hold an 80.5 percent performance composite, the only high school in CMS to achieve more than 80 percent. He credits the school’s success to quality teaching, dedicated students and a supportive community, he said, something he’s been encouraging all four years he’s led the school.
Ardrey Kell staff also began preparing for and implementing the Common Core standards two to three years ago, he said, increasing rigor in the classroom at an earlier stage. The school also has worked on better time management, incorporating daily time to work on remediation and more one-on-one study times. School leaders have provided professional development for their teachers and consistently viewed data from other schools in and around the district to ensure Ardrey Kell was staying competitive.
“I don’t focus on the tests,” Switzer said. “I just focus on overall learning.”
View more detailed information on school results at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s website, www.dpi.state.nc.us.