Hoke High improves, some schools slip in performance grades

By Catharin Shepard • Editor • No Hoke County schools flunked, and Hoke High improved to earn a B letter grade in the most recent round of statewide school performance grades.

Hoke High and SandHoke Early College High School earned the only B and A grades out of the county’s 13 graded public schools this year. All of the county’s middle and elementary schools earned C or D letter grades – though many of those same schools did meet or exceed expected growth targets, according to the data. Three local schools earned a D letter grade and failed to meet growth targets last school year.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) last week released the School Performance Grades for the 2022-2023 school year. The state has used the system since 2014 by calculating student performance data to assign each individual school a performance grade on the A-F scale. 

The grades are based on each school’s achievement score (weighted 80 percent) and each school’s students’ academic growth (weighted 20 percent), according to NCDPI. The final grade is based on a 15-point scale. 

The state also released the schools’ growth status and growth score, which measures whether each school exceeded, met, or did not meet expected growth in academics over the previous year. 

Hoke County Schools’ letter grades and growth status for 2022-2023 were: 

•SandHoke Early College High School, A, Exceeded

•Hoke County High, B, Exceeded

•West Hoke Middle, C, Exceeded

•East Hoke Middle, D, Not Met

•Sandy Grove Middle, D, Met

•Don D. Steed Elementary, C, Not Met

•J.W. McLauchlin Elementary, D, Exceeded

•Scurlock Elementary, D, Met

•Hawk Eye Elementary, D, Met

•West Hoke Elementary, C, Met

•Rockfish Hoke Elementary, C, Met

•Upchurch Elementary, D, Not Met

•Sandy Grove Elementary, D, Not Met

The county’s high school programs both fared well in the recent report. Hoke County High School’s data showed it earned a school growth score of 100 and a 10 on the school growth index, according to the NCDPI report. The school’s four-year cohort graduation rate was at 85.2, comparable to the state’s four-year cohort graduation rate of 86.4 percent.

SandHoke Early College High School also showed similar results, with a school growth score of 92.7 and a school growth index of 5.66. The early college high school’s four-year cohort graduation rate was over 95 percent.

In end-of-grade tests, Hoke students typically fared better in science than in the reading and math category for academic assessments. Scores on the science EOG ranged from a low of 51.9 among students at Upchurch Elementary, to a high of 77 among students at West Hoke Middle. 

Scores for reading and mathematics ranged from a low of 29 at Hawk Eye Elementary, to a high of 90.9 at SandHoke Early College High School. 

Making up learning loss

State-level school officials noted that the results still show learning loss from the pandemic, when students were not able to physically be present in classrooms. However, they said, the data from the most recently concluded school year also shows promise that students are recovering some of that learning loss.

“State test results from the 2022-23 school year presented to the State Board of Education today show that North Carolina students continued to recover ground lost to the COVID pandemic, with gains across virtually all grades, subjects and student subgroups,” a press release along with the results said.

“Schools also showed progress on accountability measures, with more than seven of every 10 achieving or exceeding their goals for academic growth, while the proportion of schools that did not meet growth expectations was just one percentage point higher than in the most recent pre-pandemic year of 2018-19. More than one in four of the state’s 2,598 public schools earned a School Performance Grade of an A or B; with nearly two out of every three receiving a C or better.”

The report for the 2022-2023 school year was only the second one since the 2018-2019 year to include all elements of the state’s accountability framework, NCDPI said.

Catherine Truitt, the state superintendent for public instruction, said the results show schools are still on track to “recover from the significant setbacks caused by COVID-19.”

“It’s hard to overstate the impact of the pandemic, but teachers across North Carolina are working harder than ever to help students recover, and more importantly, advance in their learning. We owe them our gratitude for meeting this challenge to improve outcomes for students,” Truitt said in a statement. “We’ve now seen two consecutive years of gains that were greater than any of the several years preceding the pandemic losses, when year-to-year changes in average scores were generally flat, or in some cases, declining. Students and schools still have a way to go to catch up, but we have good reason to think that progress will continue.”

Local response

Hoke County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Rodney Shotwell likewise said that Hoke County’s results from the 2022-2023 school year reflect impacts from the pandemic.

“I think that Hoke County is experiencing the same that other districts are, we’re still making some kind of recovery from the kids being out from COVID,” he said. “I know some people might think that’s just an easy excuse, but it is a reality. Learning loss K-12 is going to be felt, not only with us but through the colleges and universities.” 

“What it’s showing me is we still have work to do, but our teachers know that. Every teacher wants their school to be the best that it can possibly be,” the interim superintendent said.

From here, the school district will look at the data and use it to make decisions about programs and resources at local schools. 

“I look at the information we receive as a snapshot to see where are the missing pieces that we need to work on for this year, and what do the trends look like over time,” Shotwell said.

Using the data also serves as an indicator for administrators to determine things like what kind of math classes need to be offered for rising freshmen who are transitioning to high school. The district will continue doing professional development and providing resources for educators. Shotwell said that he was “really impressed with the staff that we have,” and that the principals and teachers “really go out of their way” to talk with one another. That kind of communication can help spread the good ideas that are working in schools that are getting strong grades and seeing improvement.

“That’s where teachers help each other, that’s why I believe it’s really important for teachers across the district to talk to each other,” Shotwell said.

The interim superintendent additionally said that even very small amounts, such as two-tenths of a point, can keep a school from leveling up to the next highest grade.

Shotwell said that “being an old high school principal,” he was “really impressed” with the improvement at Hoke High on the 2022-2023 report.

“When you’re looking at their scores for their growth, Hoke County High School in 2021-2022 had 8.81. Last year they had a 10. That is like going way beyond exceeded growth,” he said. “…It is huge that Hoke County High School with 2,100 kids could achieve a B, they’ve really done a lot of work.”

He likewise praised SandHoke Early College High School’s results, saying the school is “consistently positive and above, far and exceeded the growth there.”

To see the full data, visit https://www.dpi.nc.gov.

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