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State to issue letter grades to schools for first time this fall

The new North Carolina Department of Public Instruction report cards indicate high teacher turnover at two Asheville City schools, an indication of how the data might be useful to parents and caregivers throughout Western North Carolina.

The report cards, provided for each public, alternative and charter school in the state, are similar to report cards students receive that measure their achievements in coursework. The state school report cards, however, don’t yet assign a letter grade to schools’ successes in various categories. Rather, they show percentages achieved in categories that include criteria like high school graduation rates and how well students did in end-of-course testing.

Letter grades will be assigned to schools beginning this fall, Vanessa Jeter, the department of public instruction’s communications director, told Carolina Public Press.

“This information is very valuable,” Jeter said. “It gives a sense of where your school is excelling and where it may need to pay attention.”

To view the report cards, which can be searched by county, district and school name, go to ncreportcards.org or click the links below to go directly to each school system located in Western North Carolina.

Teacher satisfaction?

As examples of the data that the N.C. School Report Cards provide, here are teacher turnover rates for Asheville schools. (Turnover rates are not available for Francine Delany and Evergreen Community charter schools.) Scroll down for Buncombe County Schools turnover rates.

What else do the report cards say?

The report cards, begun in 2001, give parents one place to view school performance data that, prior to 2001, had been scattered in various divisions.

“It is a way to find some really basic information, like class and school size and graduation rates and crime and violence statistics,” Jeter said.

The report cards also provide numbers that compare a school’s metrics to those of its school district and the state as a whole.

The report cards’ data is grouped in four categories:

  • schools/district profile,
  • student performance,
  • school safety, technology and attendance, and
  • teacher turnover and education attainment.

Truth delivered daily

The report card website cautions against using the report cards to rank schools because each has differences in class size, grades and programs. However, the website has a lot of data that caregivers can use.

Below, for example, is a look at teacher turnover rates at schools located in Buncombe County.

On the website, users can compare the size of a school’s population and average course size to those in its district and the state with the same grade range. They’ll be able to find out what percentage of the school body is enrolled in advanced college prep courses and career and technical courses. The report cards also show – by gender, race and financial status – the percentage of students who scored at or above grade level in state end-of-course tests. They show the number of reported acts of crime or violence per 100 students and compare a school’s rate to averages in the school district and state.

The report cards show how many books and digital learning devices are available per student. And they reveal the number of teachers per school, as well as the status of their teaching licenses, how long they’ve been teaching, how many years experience they have and what their turnover rate is.  The report cards also show what percentage of a school’s courses are taught by what the state school system calls “highly qualified teachers.” The percentage of teachers with advanced degrees and National Board certification are also listed.

The website has a list of resources that explain the findings, such as definitions of terms used and frequently asked questions, as well as a video that describes how to navigate the system. Also available are a general overview of the report cards and questions that parents and community leaders can ask of their school administrators.


Find out more about your district’s schools

You may look at the most recent individual school report cards by following these links to all public schools – including charter schools — located in the 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina.

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Paul Clark

Paul Clark is a contributing reporter for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at paulgclark@charter.net.

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