Highlands School again ‘exceeds’ expectation

At the beginning of the school year, the NC Dept. of Public Instruction releases data outlining schools’ accountability growth as it applies to Math and Reading for the previous school year – in this case 2018-’19. At Monday night’s Macon County School Board meeting held in Highlands, Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin once again sang Highlands’ praises.

“Highlands School once again exceeded growth – and has done it for the sixth time out of the past seven years – which is remarkable,” he said. “Also, concerning proficiency, grade levels and courses, it was consistently high in comparison to other schools across the state. We are very proud of what they have been able to do.”

Highlands School Principal Brian Jetter said the scores on the state tests last year were very good which is a testament to the work Highlands School teachers do every day in every classroom.

“We are always striving to do better on the tests. I continue to be very proud that our school consistently “exceeds growth.” That means that our students continue to intellectually grow more each year than the state expects,” he said.

Only 29.6% of schools in North Carolina exceeded growth and Highlands was of them – the only one in the county. Only 37.6% of schools in the state received a “B” and Highlands was one of them. Letter grades are A through F. The lowest grade for a high school in Macon County was a C – Nantahala, but it still met expected growth as did Franklin High School and Macon Early College.

The only high school in Macon County to get an “A” was Macon Early College – only 20.1% of the state’s high schools got an “A.” Principal Jetter said the letter grades don’t tell the whole story.

“For us to get an ‘A’ it would take the state to give more weight to the growth score. Right now, ‘Growth’ is only counted as 20% of the final score. Achievement (the result of that one score on the day of testing) is counted 80%. I believe that ‘Growth’ should be counted at least at 50% of the total score. If it were, I believe we would be an ‘A’ school. “Why do I think ‘growth’ should be given more weight? Because it is the most important thing a school does: it ‘grows’ a student’s intellectual ability from what it is when the student comes into the school, until the student graduates,” he said.

Not all the figures for classifications are in from the NC Dept. of Public Instruction – specifically grade level scores at each school, what each individual class did and what each individual teacher’s growth was but based on the preliminary accountability growth report the Macon County School system is doing well.

There are 115 school districts in North Carolina and Macon County, based on Average Daily Membership, is the 71st largest in the state with 4,573 students as of Sept. 24. Highlands has 388 students enrolled up from 370 the first day of school August 26. In the 2018-‘19 school year the total was 341 students. Macon County Schools’ End-of-Course and End-of-Grade test grades are steadily improving with the system ranking 32nd in the state – up from 2017-’18 at 30th, 2016-‘17 at 38th, and 2015-’14 at 46th. End-of-Course combined scores (Reading and Math) for grades 9-12 ranked 21st in the state up from 47th in 2017-’18 and 61st in 2016-’17.

“We saw a lot of growth in EOC combined scores gradewide,” said Baldwin. “We rank 32nd in all test scores combined in EOCs and EOGs with the strongest in Math 1. Macon Early College was the highest in the state,” said Baldwin.

End-of-Course test and End-of-Grade tests are given 3rd grade through 12th grade. Baldwin said even in the subgroup breakdown – white, economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, Hispanic, those of two or more races – all either exceeded or met growth. “Number-wise there aren’t very many students in Macon County who did not meet growth,” said Baldwin. “We score consistently high compared to other schools in state.” Finally, Macon County Schools graduation percentage outpaces the state. Macon County’s graduation rate is 93.3% and the state’s is 86.5%.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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