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GREENSBORO — Overall pass rates on state tests are up slightly in Guilford County Schools, but the district’s superintendent sees a more encouraging sign in a pattern in the data.
For the 2018-19 school year, she said, all the tested elementary and middle school grade levels showed improvement in every subject for the end-of-grade exams by this same proficiency measure. Elementary students are tested in reading and math in grades 3-8, and science in fifth and eighth grades.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras said the district has not seen this happen in the nearly decade for which they have comparable data. The district is now chasing a series of goals set by the Board of Education with a strategic plan that Contreras said has especially prompted investment at the elementary and middle school levels.
“When you don’t have a well thought out strategy, you see improvement at a couple grade levels; you see it going up and down,” she said. “But when you see all grade levels improve in all three subjects, that’s a result of the board’s strategy.”
That alignment could be promising for key academic goals that relate to how students will do in third-grade reading and ninth-grade math in 2022. However, the district did not make progress on narrowing racial achievement gaps, another key goal.
According to information released Wednesday by the state, 55.1% of district test takers scored at or above grade level. That’s an improvement from the 54.2% who passed in 2017-18, and slightly below the 55.6% who passed the year before that.
Interim Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley thinks curriculum and professional development are likely factors contributing to the improvement. She said principals and teachers point to the training and coaching for principals as helpful.
She also said the district took advantage of a longstanding state provision that allows some students to retake tests.
This year, the district asked students who barely missed cutoffs on reading and science tests if they would like to come back for three or four days after the end of the school year to review key concepts and then retake the tests.
Oakley said they taught the students through special “project-based” lessons aimed at major, highly-tested topics. Like for science, she said, they might have the students do a project on the weather. Afterward, the students took the test again and many improved their scores. This, she said, likely also helped the proficiency scores.
The district saw slight declines at the high school level in proficiency on end-of-course tests in biology and English 2. The two high school math tests aren’t comparable to previous years, according to district leaders.
The district also saw a slight drop — 1 fewer school — in the percent of schools that met or exceeded growth expectations.
Among district schools, 73.5% met or exceeded growth. That means students made a year’s worth or better of expected progress from the previous school year. Growth scores did not include the test retakes, which were only factored into proficiency scores.
Increasing by 50% the number of schools that exceed growth is one of the school board’s five main goals.
One school among those that exceeded growth was Fairview Elementary.
Last fall, leaders with the state’s innovative school district considered proposing that Fairview be taken away from school district management due to persistent poor academic performance. They ended up not taking over Fairview, which raised its school grade from an F to a D and met its growth goal. The school saw an especially dramatic increase in science.
“This is a win for our community, this is a win for the people of High Point, this is a win for our scholars,” principal Abe Hege said.
District leaders still expect the state’s innovative school district to consider taking over some low-performing local schools this year, although the ISD hasn’t contacted them about it yet.
Both Contreras and Oakley pointed out that despite gains, the district made no progress on decreasing the overall racial achievement gap in state testing results. That’s hardly a side concern: decreasing the achievement gap by seven percentage points is another of the district’s five main goals.
“The achievement gap has not closed because everyone increased at about the same level, “ Contreras said. “White students improved and African American students improved. To close the achievement gap we would have to double the rate of improvement for African American and Hispanic students.
“The gap remains the same because everyone is improving. Which is encouraging and discouraging.”
The start of the second annual N.C. Folk Festival on Friday brings three days of music, food and crafts to downtown Greensboro.
Find more photos and reporting at greensboro.com.
See when and where downtown streets are closing for the festival. Page A3
Read artist profiles and more about this year’s festival. Go Triad
Horse sense: How to survive a hurricane? Wild horses on the Outer Banks usually try this. Page A2
As Hurricane Dorian strengthened Wednesday and moved within 100 miles of the Carolinas, those on the coast continued with last-minute preparations.
Workers in coastal towns made moves to protect their properties, vacationers squeezed in a few final moments on the beach before abandoning their long-planned getaways, and a little farther inland, North Carolina’s first storm-related fatality was reported in Columbus County.
Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters in a news conference Wednesday that an 85-year-old man fell from a ladder on Monday while helping his family prepare for the storm. He died from his injuries the same day. The man’s name was not immediately released.
Meteorologists told Guilford County residents to be vigilant about Hurricane Dorian, but said they don’t expect much impact locally.
Meteorologist Mike Strickler said Wednesday afternoon that forecasts show Guilford County getting less than a tenth of an inch of rain and wind gusts of up to 30 mph.
If the storm takes a more westward track those totals could increase slightly. Strickler said because Guilford County remains on the outer edge of the storm it is important for residents to continue monitoring forecasts.
Meteorologists said impacts to the east, primarily south and east of the Triangle, include wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph with heavy rainfall of 4-8 inches. The strongest winds are expected this evening and Friday morning.
“Don’t let your guard down completely,” Strickler said. “Other counties will see fairly significant impacts not that far from the Triad.”
Weaker but bigger since it slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph winds earlier this week and killed at least 20, the now Category 2 Hurricane Dorian was moving off the Georgia coast at 8 mph late Wednesday afternoon as it crept up the Southeastern seaboard. Forecasters said it had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and was centered about 130 miles south of Charleston.
A hurricane warning covered about 500 miles of coastline, and authorities warned about 3 million residents to get away before the water and wind rose with Dorian’s approach.
In Otway, a Carteret County community near Harker’s Island on Wednesday, Chelsie Van Dyke was on her third day of getting the Walker NAPA Auto Parts store ready for the storm.
Van Dyke and her two daughters, Briyanna and Miranda, looked like pros helping Van Dyke’s co-worker, Ben Payne, hang 4-by-8-foot sheets of board across the windows of the store. The red neon “OPEN” sign still flashed in the window, and customers dropped in for last-minute supplies as Dorian inched closer.
As they worked, the National Weather Service sent out a hurricane warning for the region.
“It doesn’t matter how much preparation you do,” Van Dyke said. “If it’s coming, it’s coming.”
Farther north in Nags Head, roads were mostly empty — and the beach even emptier.
But just before noon, a few surfers waited for waves near Jennette’s Pier, most of which was destroyed in 2003 during Hurricane Isabel.
And about two miles south, near the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Kevin and Christine Fox had arranged chairs and coolers in the middle of the beach to watch the waves crash in front of them. The Foxes had the beach to themselves — nobody within 200 yards.
Kevin Fox said this was supposed to be a week of vacation, until the threat of Dorian intervened. They received word of the order to evacuate on Tuesday but, Christine Fox said, “It’s not like the police come knocking on your door, asking you to leave.”
Fox said she was accustomed to hurricanes, having grown up in the Florida panhandle. And besides, she said, forecasters weren’t calling for Dorian to arrive near this part of the Outer Banks until Friday morning.
So, while they could, the Foxes took advantage of the empty beach. In the distance, a red flag blew in the breeze warning people to stay out of the ocean. The Foxes said they planned to spend most of Wednesday on the beach before returning home to northern Virginia.
In all directions, there were few people to be seen. Boards covered the windows of some oceanfront homes. A little ways away, workers gathered on another pier to board up a restaurant. Even the aisles of the local Food Lion were mostly empty.
Across the street from the grocery store, boards covered the windows of one house, a message painted on the wood:
“Go Away Dorian.”