Each year, I write a blog post about the performance of our schools. Typically, I do this blog in October, but due to the hurricane, it has put us a little behind our regular schedule. I still think it is important, though that the community-at-large knows how New Hanover County Schools is performing on state and federal assessments.
Traditionally, the first data point that we look at is our graduation rate. Back in the fall of 2010 when I first arrived to NHCS, the graduation rate was in the 70s. We have made tremendous growth in this area, and I am so proud to share that for the first time ever we made it to 85%. Our 2017-18 graduation rate was 86%! I cannot say enough good things about the administrators, teachers, counselors, tutors, and others in our district who work tirelessly with our students every day to make sure they graduate on time. Graduating from high school is the first step for all students to start their career. Without a high school diploma, students cannot advance to the next level – they cannot go to college, enter the military, or take classes at a community college. They encounter very limited career options and job opportunities. My goal for NHCS is to exceed the State average of 86.2% and then surpass the 90% threshold for graduation.
When you dig deep into the graduation data, you see that every subgroup showed improvement. I am particularly proud of the improvement of our students with disabilities. This group went from 66% to 72%. Another group that showed strong growth was our English-as-Second-Learners students. They jumped from 45% to 63%, and this continues the upward trend of the last several years for our students.
Beyond our graduation rate, we also look at our performance composite. The chart below shows that in the last four years, we’ve gone from 63% to over 66% proficient. We have also exceeded the State each of those years by almost 10%.
As a district, we also benchmark our performance against several other indicators; these include the districts around us, other large districts and districts of similar size. The next two charts show that we are not only a top performer in the region, but we also outperform similar-size districts and other urban districts.
Another area that we benchmark is against the area charter schools. Each year, our performance compared to these schools only gets better. As you can see from the chart, none of the area charter schools would be eligible to rank in the Top 10 schools within our district. The one school that struggled the most – DC Virgo Prep Academy – has been restructured as a Lab School in partnership with UNCW. I believe that this partnership will help the school continue to grow and make progress. Several of our downtown schools have shown tremendous growth and outperformed their downtown charter school counterparts. With the transition of DC Virgo to UNCW, the district has no schools with an F School Performance Grade (SPG).
The last two charts show data that is specific to our high schools, and once again, our high school students are outperforming the state. The ACT test is given to all students, and you can see from the chart that we are almost 10 points better than the state. When you look at our SAT results, you will see again that we are above the State, as well as the national average, at all of our high schools.
Let me conclude by saying, I’m very proud of the work that our teachers and other educational professionals do every day in the classroom. These improved results and strong standings at the regional, state and national levels are because of their hard work and commitment to our students from Pre-K to high school. Additionally, I cannot say enough about the willingness of others that share their resources and provide support. During my time here, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners has been a great partner, who has been willing to commit resources to ensure that our students have what they need to be successful. It is also an indicator of the level of parent support that we have in our district and the faith that they have in our schools.
Next year, I anticipate that I will have the opportunity to share similar or even better results as NHCS continues to make progress. No hurricane can slow us down or prevent our students from being successful!