Middle school performance on the 2013 N.C. exams shows some stark differences among schools, but the numbers provide few easy answers about what's working. (To see at-a-glance 2013 exam results for Charlotte-Mecklenburg middle schools and charter schools in the county, go to this map.)
Twelve of 51 middle schools had overall pass rates below 25 percent, while four topped 75 percent.
The new exams, which are designed to give a more realistic picture of college and career readiness than the old ones, brought dramatic drops across the state. The patterns are predictable, with the biggest setbacks at the schools serving large numbers of low-income and minority students, but still tough to see.
Last year I made regular visits to Ashley Park, a preK-8 school that's part of Project LIFT, for a series on the eighth-graders and the faculty who were trying to get them ready for high school. According to the new exams, about 31 percent of those eighth graders ended the year proficient in math and just under 16 percent in reading. The school's overall proficiency rating, for all grades and subjects, was 26.5 percent.
|Ashley Park students at year's end|
And that was far from the worst. Most of the preK-8 schools created when CMS closed troubled high-poverty middle schools landed at the bottom of the pack as they finished their second year in the new structure. Berryhill was the highest performing of the eight neighborhood preK-8 schools created in that move, with a 40.9 percent proficiency rate and a top growth rating. Reid Park Academy was the lowest, at 11.1 percent proficiency -- and an eighth-grade math pass rate below 5 percent.
Of course, it's impossible to know how students would have fared if the old middle schools had remained. And K-8 magnet schools such as Collinswood Language Academy (69.5 percent overall proficiency), Waddell Language Academy (66.2 percent) and Morehead STEM (63.6 percent) performed much better.
Comparing CMS and charter middle schools provides a mixed bag as well. Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, a K-8 charter, topped the list with a 94.6 percent overall proficiency rate -- hardly surprising since it serves highly gifted students. CMS results for gifted students were also very high. Kennedy School, a K-12 charter for at-risk students, was near the bottom.
In the south/southeast suburbs, CMS neighborhood schools such as Robinson (82.7 percent), South Charlotte (78.1 percent) and Community House (77.4 percent) outscored nearby charters such as Socrates Academy (74.3 percent) and Queens Grant (50.5 percent). In the northern burbs that was reversed, with Community School of Davidson (74.6 percent) and Lake Norman Charter (73 percent) topping CMS' Bailey (67.8 percent), Bradley (55.2 percent) and Alexander (47.2 percent).
KIPP and Sugar Creek, both charter schools known for success with disadvantaged students, logged overall proficiency rates of 36.1 percent and 39.7 percent, respectively. Those aren't the kind of scores that will look good when the state starts issuing letter grades, but they're well above the nearest CMS middle schools, Cochrane (17.6 percent) and Martin Luther King (22.8 percent). CarolinaCAN, a new reform advocacy group, recently profiled Sugar Creek Charter as part of its video series on successful charters.
I'm working my way through the data, which was released earlier this month. Mecklenburg high schools are already mapped, and I'll get to the elementary schools as soon as possible. If you'd like an Excel version of the middle and/or high school results, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.