WNC schools still recovering from Covid-era learning

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released data last week that shows test scores, accountability, and growth for all public schools in the state during the 2021-22 school year, the third year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students and the education community have continued to be impacted by COVID, particularly when COVID exposures have forced students to miss school or return to remote learning,” Tammy said. Howard, CIO Senior Director for the Office of Accountability and Testing. “These reports need to be seen in this context, which means that while the provision of education was not as varied as it was in the 2020-21 school year, it continued to be a anomaly compared to the 2018-19 school year, which predated the start of the pandemic. »

Although testing and accountability data has been released annually since the late 1990s, testing data has not been released for the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years due to anomalies in the administration of tests and other data markers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The data shows that as of the 2021-22 school year, the percentage of attendance goals achieved has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

The data assigns each school a letter grade, from A to F, based on each school’s passing score from assessments such as end-of-year and end-of-course tests, English language assessments, ACT scores, four-year graduation rates, and student academic growth. Assessments represent 80% of the letter grade and growth represents 20%.

A third of all schools in North Carolina have been designated as low performing schools, receiving a D or F grade.

“While these results are sobering, they are not unexpected,” said Michael Maher, assistant superintendent, standards, accountability and research division at NCDPI.

In The Smoky Mountain News’ coverage area, 10 out of 35 schools were designated as underperforming.

Academic growth, also determined for each school, is a measure of students’ academic progress over the school year. Each school with at least 30 students who can be included in the growth calculation is considered to have met, exceeded, or fallen short of the growth standards.

Data shows that 51.2% of students passed state exams in the 2021-22 school year, compared to 45.4% in the 2020-21 school year and 58.8% in the of the 2018-19 school year, the last school year before the pandemic.

The four-year high school graduation rate for students in North Carolina fell to 86.2%, from 86.9% in the 2020-21 school year and 87.6% during of the 2019-2020 school year. Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties maintained a graduation rate above the state average.

“We know that test scores alone aren’t enough to measure our students’ performance,” said Jill Camnitz, member of the State Board of Education. “However, we also know that these test scores are important information for our students, parents, teachers, schools and districts. They testify to the considerable efforts of our teachers to accelerate learning after the covid. They provide our teachers with usable data this year so they can individualize their teaching to meet student needs and they also provide us with more insight into the impact of covid on student learning across the state. .


Haywood County Schools performed well against other systems in the state, ranking seventh out of 115 school districts in school performance, the highest in its history. In the 2020-21 school year, the system was ranked 10th.

“The recently released performance data represents our sense of urgency and high expectations,” said Dr. Bill Nolte, Superintendent. “We tried to make every minute count. We are back to a composite point of our pre-COVID-19 performance. We will provide further performance highlights at the September school board meeting. »

Haywood County schools were among 10 school systems in the state that did not have a D or F school for the 2021-22 school year.

Riverbend Elementary and Haywood Early College received A; Pisgah High, Tuscola High, Bethel Middle, and Bethel Elementary received a B; Elementary schools in Clyde, Hazelwood, Jonathan Valley, Junaluska, Meadowbrook and North Canton, Canton Middle, Waynesville Middle and Central Haywood High all received a C.

Eleven schools in the HCS system have achieved growth standards; Waynesville Middle, Bethel Middle and Hazelwood Elementary did not.

Haywood County’s schools’ composite performance shows that 63.4% of its students passed state exams in the 2021-22 school year, well above the state average of 51. 2%.

“I’m so proud of our school system,” said Jill Barker, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “Data represents the perseverance, strength and heart of our entire school community. COVID-19 has not stopped us from doing the important work of educating our students. Our system has remained resolutely focused on providing a solid education despite many obstacles. All of our stakeholders are to be commended.


In Jackson County, eight of nine schools met or exceeded projected academic growth in the 2021-22 school year for the first time since 2013.

“This is the first time since 2013 that eight of our schools have met or exceeded their planned overall academic growth,” Superintendent Dr. Dana Ayers said. “I am incredibly proud of our teachers and staff who have remained focused on their students during two of the most challenging years in recent memory.”

Jackson County Early College received an A grade in school performance; Smoky Mountain High School received a B; Blue Ridge Early College and Fairview School received Cs; Blue Ridge School, Cullowhee Valley, Scotts Creek, and Smoky Mountain Elementary received Ds.

Jackson County Early College, Scotts Creek, and Smoky Mountain High School exceeded projected overall academic growth; Blue Ridge School, Blue Ridge Early College, Cullowhee Valley School, Fairview School, and Smoky Mountain Elementary achieved projected overall school growth.

Students arrive at Smokey Mountain Elementary for the first day of the 2022-23 school year. Photo by David Profitt

Jackson County Public Schools highlights include Scotts Creek Elementary, which ranked fifth out of 191 West Region schools for overall school growth, and county high schools which achieved a graduation rate of 90 .2%, ranking 21st out of 115 North Carolina schools. systems and first among The Smoky Mountains News’ four-county coverage area. Haywood and Macon schools followed closely with rates of 89.1% and 89.4%, respectively; Schools in Swain County had an 86.5% rate.

“It says a lot about the commitment of our teachers and staff,” Ayers said. “It’s inspiring to see how much they truly care about educating and growing their students.”

In Jackson County schools, 48% of students passed state exams, ranking the district 65th out of 115 in the state.


In Macon County, seven of 12 schools met academic growth standards for the 2021-22 school year. Mountain View Intermediate, South Macon Elementary, and Macon Virtual Academy did not meet growth standards.

The district ranked 44th out of 115 school districts with 52.5% of students passing state exams in their grade level, keeping Macon County schools above the state average.

Macon County Early College received an A grade in school performance; Franklin High School received a B; Cartoogechaye Elementary, East Franklin Elementary, Highlands School, Macon Middle, and South Macon Elementary all received Cs; Iotla Valley Elementary, Mountain View Intermediate, and Nantahala schools all received D grades; Macon Virtual Academy received an F. More than 10% of schools in the state received an F grade last year, up from 3.6% in the 2018-19 school year.


In Swain County, 48.2% of students met the proficiency level, which ranks it 64th in North Carolina.

Swain County High School and Swain County East Elementary met growth standards, while Swain County Middle School and Swain County West Elementary did not. High school and West Elementary received C grades, middle school and East Elementary received Ds.

“While we take full responsibility for what we do, I have to say that our staff and students are almost underappreciated with this system,” Superintendent Dr Mark Sale said in a video message to the schools community. of Swain County in August. 25. “The COVID effect was very real in schools last year and we shouldn’t compare last year’s scores to 2017 and 2018 scores. We haven’t fully recovered yet.”

Sale noted that East Elementary, one of the schools designated as underperforming, met growth standards for the year.

Charter schools

Haywood County’s Shining Rock Classical Academy did not meet growth standards for the 2021-22 school year. It received a C grade, and 54.9% of students passed state exams.

Summit Charter School in Jackson County did not meet growth standards for the 2021-22 school year. It received a C grade and 54% of students achieved the proficiency level.

Mountain Discovery in Swain County has met growth standards for the 2021-2022 school year. It received a C grade, and 55.8% of students passed state exams.

“Last year’s accountability results are truly a testament to the resilience, dedication and commitment of thousands of educators across the state,” Truitt said. “They know like me that we still have a steep hill to climb and that every step counts.”

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