Test results indicate a rebound in students’ academic performance
Higher proficiency and growth are signs of schools overcoming pandemic-related learning loss
Gastonia, N.C. – Test results for the 2021-2022 academic year indicate that students in Gaston County and across North Carolina are gaining ground on learning loss that happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information released by the North Carolina State Board of Education and N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Higher proficiency rates on end-of-grade and end-of-course state tests and meeting and exceeding academic growth expectations are signs that schools have been successful in addressing pandemic-related learning loss. However, schools statewide are faced with more work to do to overcome the effects of the pandemic and help students rebound to pre-pandemic achievement levels.
Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker stated, “It is encouraging to see our schools making gains in student achievement and academic growth; we are going in the right direction toward improvement following an unprecedented time that not only affected schools, but all aspects of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly to learning loss as we had to alter almost everything associated with how we operated schools. Last year, we were able to get our students and teachers back into a more normal routine with in-person instruction five days a week, and as a result, we have upward trends in student achievement, especially with the amount of academic growth our students made in one school year. We know that it will be a gradual process to recover from the pandemic, and it will take much energy and effort, but we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure that our students learn, grow, and thrive.”
Dr. Booker added, “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our teachers, support personnel, administrators, and so many others who have had a role in helping us bounce back from the pandemic. It has been difficult and overwhelming at times, but our employees have gone beyond the call of duty to persevere and do what is best to help our students. I am confident that our schools and central level departments will use this year’s test data to evaluate where we are, determine where we want to be, and put resources, programs, and professional development in place so we can take steps toward higher academic achievement and success.”
The 2021-2022 year is the first time that the state has applied all components of its accountability and testing program for schools, including the assessment of academic growth and the assignment of A-F school performance grades, since the pandemic hit. The last year that school districts had a full report of accountability and testing data was 2018-2019. While the state has acknowledged the detrimental effects of the pandemic on student learning and achievement, the state did not change its testing and accountability model to account for the pandemic.
Below is information about student proficiency, academic growth, the graduation rate, and school performance grades for Gaston County Schools for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Students in Gaston County and across North Carolina improved their performance on end-of-grade and end-of-course state tests. Students in grades 3-8 are tested in reading and math, and a science test is given in the fifth and eighth grades. High school students take state tests in four subject areas: Math I, Math III, Biology, and English II. Proficiency is based on the number of students scoring a Level III, IV, or V on the state tests.
▪ Gaston’s overall proficiency rate for 2021-2022 is 48.4 percent, which is 4.3 points higher than last year’s rate of 44.1. The state rate is 51.4 percent.
▪ The percentage of students scoring at or above grade level (achieving proficiency) in math and reading increased across all tested grade levels (grades 3-8) when compared to last year. The percentage for science (tested only in grades 5 and 8) increased as well.
▪ The most significant gains in reading are for fourth grade (+6.5), seventh grade (+5.7), and fifth grade (+5.1). The most significant gains in math are for third grade (+9.8), fourth grade (+6.8), and fifth grade (+5.5). The most significant gains in science are for fifth grade (+7.9).
▪ At the high school level, the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level (achieving proficiency) increased in Math I (+8.0), Biology (+4.8), and Math III (+3.1) when compared to last year. Math III proficiency in 2021-2022 exceeds the pre-pandemic proficiency rate in 2018-2019. The proficiency rate for English II dipped only one-tenth of a point when compared to last year.
▪ The elementary schools with the highest student proficiency are Hawks Nest, Belmont Central, Cherryville, New Hope, W.A. Bess, and North Belmont. Cherryville (+21.4) leads the elementary schools with the most significant increase in student proficiency when compared to last year. Other elementary schools with a significant increase are Catawba Heights (+11.4), North Belmont (+10.3), Tryon (+9.3), McAdenville (+8.7), Sherwood (+8.2), Belmont Central (+8.1), and Woodhill (+8.0). North Belmont is the only elementary school to exceed its pre-pandemic (2018-2019) proficiency rate.
▪ The middle schools with the highest student proficiency are Cramerton, Belmont, Stanley, and Mount Holly. The middle schools with the most significant increase when compared to last year are York Chester (+7.2), Mount Holly (+5.0), and Stanley (+4.3).
▪ The high schools with the highest student proficiency are Highland, Gaston Early College, Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences, and South Point. The high schools with the most significant increase when compared to last year are Forestview (+8.7), South Point (+7.4), and East Gaston (+5.4). Bessemer City is the only high school to exceed its pre-pandemic (2018-2019) proficiency rate.
Academic growth indicates whether students achieve a year’s worth of academic progress for a year’s worth of instruction. Growth is reported in one of three ways: Exceeded Growth, Met Growth, or Did Not Meet Growth. For the 2021-2022 school year, Gaston County had 71 percent of its schools (36 of 51) to meet or exceed overall academic growth expectations.
▪ At the elementary school level, W.A. Bess, Brookside, Lowell, North Belmont, and Pinewood exceeded overall academic growth expectations. For middle schools, Cramerton and Southwest exceeded overall expectations. East Gaston, Forestview, Gaston Early College, Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences, Highland, and South Point exceeded overall expectations among high schools.
▪ In reading, 26 elementary schools and all 11 middle schools met or exceeded academic growth expectations (95 percent of elementary and middle schools excelled in reading growth). In math, 23 elementary and middle schools met or exceeded expectations.
The Gaston County graduation rate for the Class of 2022 is 85.2 percent. Five schools have a graduation rate of 90 percent or higher: Gaston Early College (100 percent), Highland (100 percent), Forestview (92.9 percent), South Point (90.9 percent), and Ashbrook (90.0 percent). Forestview had the most significant increase (+3.7) when compared to last year.
Called the four-year cohort graduation rate, it reflects the percentage of students who entered the ninth grade in 2018-2019 and graduated four years later in June 2022. The four-year graduation rate is not the same as the dropout rate, which indicates the number of students who drop out of high school in a given year. When the state first calculated the four-year cohort graduation rate in 2005-2006, Gaston County’s rate was a mere 68.1 percent.
It is important to note that Gaston’s current graduation rate of 85.2 percent is higher than the rate of 84.9 percent in 2018-2019, which was the last “normal” school year before the pandemic.
Some students need an extra year of high school to complete graduation requirements. The district’s five-year cohort graduation rate is 87.8 percent. The five-year cohort graduation rate reflects the number of students who entered the ninth grade in 2017-2018 and graduated by June 2022.
School performance grades
The state uses the testing and accountability data to give school performance grades, which were assigned for the first time in 2014. A school’s performance letter grade is determined using a formula based only on two factors: student achievement/test scores (80 percent) and student academic growth (20 percent).
The school performance grade should not be interpreted as a comprehensive evaluation that determines the quality of a school. Only select criteria are used to determine the grade. School size, diverse student population, socioeconomics, teacher experience, student learning obstacles, special programs, parental and community involvement, and other factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have an effect on a school’s performance, but are not considered in the grade.
For the 2021-2022 school year, Gaston County had half of its schools (25 of 51) to earn an A, B, or C grade – three schools received an A grade, nine schools received a B grade, and 13 schools received a C grade. The state did not assign grades for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years because of the pandemic. When compared to 2018-2019, Gaston County, like most school districts across the state, had more schools in 2021-2022 to receive a lower grade.
Twelve schools are within three or fewer points of achieving the next grade level: Beam Intermediate, Brookside, Cherryville High, Costner, New Hope, North Belmont, North Gaston, Pinewood, Robinson, Sherwood, South Point, and Woodhill. South Point High School is only three points from having an A school performance grade, a status that is difficult to achieve.
The test scores released by the state are preliminary results. The results will be verified and official results will be a part of the district and school report cards, which will be issued this fall.
Click here to see the attached charts for information about student proficiency, academic growth, graduation, and school performance grades. The charts include proficiency information for 2018-2019 (pre-pandemic) to illustrate the influence of the pandemic on academic achievement. Because of pandemic-related factors, it is not possible to have an apples-to-apples comparison of proficiency rates for 2018-2019 and 2021-2022.