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Data Shows Yancey County Schools Making the Grade

posted Jan 7, 2015, 2:34 PM by khball@yanceync.net
At the January 5th Yancey County Schools Board Meeting, Shane Cassida, Curriculum/Instruction Director, and Pete Peterson, Testing/Accountability Director, presented the preliminary results of the NC General Assembly’s School Performance Grades for the 2013-14 school year. The Department of Public Instruction has delayed the release of the official grades until February 5th, 2015 due to changes in the calculation formulas presented in the original legislation, the Excellent School Act of 2012 (GS 115C-83). 

Cassida and Peterson explained that the nine public schools of YCS, six elementary, two middle, and one high school, of the district were graded on a variety of performance criteria, the majority of which involved assessment data from the End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) Accountability Program. The EOGs and EOCs went through a “re-norming” process before the 2012-13 school year that significantly increased the level of difficulty in the content being assessed and a higher proficiency standard that students have to meet in order to “pass” the assessment. As expected, all districts throughout the state, including YCS, saw declines across the board in 2012-13; however in 2013-14, as predicted the individual schools and Yancey County Schools as a whole saw increases in proficiency (passing the test) and a dramatic increase in growth (improvement in performance).

These increases from the school system have coincided at a time when the county is facing very difficult challenges as a community. The Public School Forum of North Carolina recently released the “Roadmap of Need – 2014”, an in-depth assessment of 20 different indicators (economic, health, education, etc.) that affect success for youth. According to this data, Yancey County youth face severe economic hardship as the county ranks 61st in childhood poverty, 65th in median household income, 77th in adult unemployment, and 95th in childhood food insecurity among North Carolina’s 100 counties. Yancey ranked 84th in terms of overall health and wellness factors for the community at-large as well. On top of these challenges, YCS faculty and students are asked to produce 21st Century work in a mid-20th Century infrastructure, as the average age of the school buildings in YCS are 62 years old, what is believed to be the oldest average age of any district in the state. The rapid deterioration of these buildings has forced the system to make difficult financial choices in the midst of overall economic hardships at the local, state, and national levels while still trying to maintain positive economic outcomes. Even the geographical layout of the county presents an obstacle as the YCS Transportation department runs buses on more miles of road than most other district in North Carolina. Needless to say, Yancey County Schools faces a unique set of barriers each day the school doors open.

The General Assembly’s School Performance Grade is assigned based 80% on the school’s proficiency on all EOGs/EOCs and 20% on the school’s growth in performance on those EOGs/EOCs. The High School formula also takes into account the performance of students on the ACT College Entrance Exam and students’ ability to take and pass upper level mathematics courses. Cassida and Peterson further explained that the legislation calls for each elementary and middle school to receive a letter grade for Reading and Math individually in addition to the overall school letter grade. For the 2013-14 year only, the General Assembly’s School Performance Grade will be on a 15-point grading scale. In succeeding years, the legislation calls for a return to a traditional 10-point grading scale. The projected grade for each school and the district for the 2013-14 school year are as follows:




SCHOOL NAME PROJECTED GRADE
Mountain Heritage HS B
Cane River MS C
East Yancey MS B
Bald Creek ES B
Bee Log ES B
Burnsville ES C
Clearmont ES D
Micaville ES C
South Toe ES B
YANCEY COUNTY SCHOOLS B


“We are certainly concerned, as are all school systems in North Carolina, going into the process that the grading system from the General Assembly will not accurately portray the quality education students receive each day in Yancey County. Given the challenges a rural school system faces in trying to meet the demands of a 21st Century education system, we are pleased with our relative ranking in the state. However, we are never satisfied with our work, as we see areas that need improvement and have already started to address those needs,” said Dr. Tony Tipton, Superintendent of Yancey County Schools. “The General Assembly’s grading system is what it is, and it is a factor that is out of our control. Instead, we wish to focus in Yancey County on the parts of our work that are within our control, namely improving our instruction each and every day for each student,” Tipton continued.

How Yancey County Schools Compare to the 100 other County School Systems

Yancey County Schools’ overall student achievement in all tested subjects (End of Grade tests, 3rd-8th grades & End of Course tests, 9th-12th grades) indicate that our school system is one of the most successful school districts in North Carolina. There are 115 public school systems in the state of North Carolina made up of 100 County School districts and 15 City School districts. There are also over 125 individual charter schools in the state’s public education system. To simplify and to draw a fair comparison using this large amount of information, the data in the following section only includes the 100 county school districts. While there are many areas where our students have excelled, the data also points to specific areas that are being monitored for improvement.

Of the 100 county school districts across North Carolina, Yancey County ranks 9th in overall student achievement. In other words, Yancey County students scored better in North Carolina’s testing program than 91 other counties. The data shows that Yancey county students did very well in the areas of Math and Science which are key subjects for developing “globally competitive” students. Yancey County Schools Graduation rate is 92.1 which is 7th highest in the state.

Yancey County students performed very well on the End of Grade tests at the elementary and middle school level when compared with the other 100 county school districts. At the elementary school level, our 4th grade and 5th grade reading scores are in the top 12 of the 100 counties. Our 5th grade Science scores are 8th best in the state.
Yancey County students really excel at the middle school level in comparison with the rest of the state. For 6th grade, 7thgrade and 8th grade Math, we rank 4th, 3rd, and 5th respectively. In 6th grade reading, our students scored 5th highest in the state.

Mountain Heritage High School’s End of Course test results are also impressive. When compared to other county school districts across North Carolina, Mountain Heritage’s combined EOC results rank them 8th overall. For Biology, Mountain Heritage has the second highest test scores in the state. MHHS also ranks in the top 25 for student achievement in English II.

There are approximately 2,023 individual schools, including charter schools that participate in North Carolina’s End of Grade (grades 3-8) and End of Course (grades 9-12) testing program. When we dig deeper into the data, we can see many areas where Yancey County’s public schools are shining examples of excellence. When we look at individual schools EOG scores by grade level, Yancey County has individual schools that are in the top 150 in the state at almost every grade level 3rdthrough 8th grades.

The charts below provide a more detailed look at how Yancey County compares with the other 100 County School Districts.

Subject Areas 100 County School Districts
All Subjects 9th
Reading Overall 13th
Math Overall 9th
Science Overall 5th
Graduation Rate 7th
Grade Level EOG Scores 100 County School Districts
3rd Grade All Scores 50th
4th Grade All Scores 10th
5th Grade All Scores 18th
6th Grade All Scores 3rd
7th Grade All Scores 6th
8th Grade All Scores 8th
Reading Scores 100 County School Districts
3rd Reading 46th
4th Reading 11th
5th Reading 12th
6th Reading 5th
7th Reading 11th
8th Reading 17th
English II 24th
Math Scores 100 County School Districts
3rd Math 54th
4th Math 14th
5th Math 44th
6th Math 4th
7th Math 3rd
8th Math 5th
Science Scores 100 County School Districts
5th 8th
8th 16th
Biology 2nd

Other Indicators of YCS Excellence

“We understand that there is much more to a quality education than just test results. A high-performing, 21st Century school provides a well-balanced program that produces globally competitive students, which is not always shown in numbers alone,” Peterson explained. He went on to explain that the community-school model that has always been at the heart of education in Yancey County Schools has proven effective beyond the sheer numbers. In light of that, Cassida explained that each school asked parents on “Parent – Teacher Day” in October to participate in a survey to “grade” their child’s overall school experience. The results of those surveys were as follows:

Overall Instruction (out of4.0 scale) Overall School (out of 4.0 scale)
Mountain Heritage HS B(3.4) A(3.5)
Cane River MS A(3.5) A(3.6)
East Yancey MS A(3.5) A(3.7)
Bald Creek ES A(3.9) A(3.6)
Bee Log ES A(4.0) A(3.9)
Burnsville ES A(3.6) A(3.6)
Clearmont ES A(3.5) B(3.4)
Micaville ES A(3.7) A(3.8)
South Toe ES A(3.8) A(3.7)
Yancey County Schools A(3.7) A(3.6)

South Toe, Micaville and Bald Creek Elementary Schools all received recognition as a Title I Reward School, with Bald Creek receiving a nomination as a “National Title I School of Distinction” for 2014-15. East Yancey Middle school is one of only three schools in North Carolina to be designated as a “National School to Watch” for 10 consecutive years. All YCS elementary and middle schools received recognition in the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Initiative (PBIS). South Toe is one of only two schools in the state that has maintained Exemplar status for the past seven years. East Yancey has held Exemplar status for the past six years.

As a final sign of the overall health of the district, YCS just completed a once every five year Federal Programs Monitoring Visit and received “No Findings” – the only system to receive such a distinction in 2014. This includes an overall monitor of how the system addresses the needs of our most at risk populations. The report concluded that YCS is going above and beyond to meet the needs of all students.

“The data and information collected over the past few months, from assessment data to parent survey data, only prove what we believed going into this process…the taxpayers of Yancey County can be assured that the investment they are making is paying off with proven results. We have nine quality schools that are meeting the needs of students, and we will only work to improve each day,” Dr. Tipton concludes.
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