Sobering is how Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox described the district’s student test scores and graduation rate for last year.
According to figures released by state education officials Wednesday, the number of CMS students who graduated within four years declined from 89.5 percent to 85.1 percent.
“While these scores are important and while these scores are going to inform a lot of what we do, they are but one set of measures,” Wilcox said. “Do we have to do better? Absolutely. Are we shying away from that? No, we're not.”
Part of the graduation rate decline can be explained by a change in how schools have to account for students who did not begin their high school studies at the school they attended their senior year. In the past, if an off-track or transfer student did not graduate within four years, they were not included in the graduation rate of the school they transferred to.
CMS officials say this accounted for the graduation rate decline, but there was only about a two-tenths of a percentage point decline statewide and Wake County’s graduation rate actually went up slightly.
The district’s student test scores on state exams declined slightly in reading, and the number of third through eight graders who scored at or above grade-level proficiency dropped by 2.1 percentage points.
Large gaps continue to exist between students of various races in reading and math. While 79 percent of white students in grades three through eight were proficient in math, only 36 percent of African Americans and 44 percent of Hispanics were proficient. The gaps were similar in reading. Wilcox said the district’s six-year strategic plan will address these disparities through a more rigorous curriculum for all schools.
“We’re going to say, 'Is this work the kind of work that's going to get our kids where they need to go?.' And we’re going to calibrate what rigor looks like,” Wilcox said. “We’re also going to make sure that we’re meeting kids where they are. We’re going to have to help them with some of the social, emotional needs that they have before we pull them into this rough, rigorous environment.”
State education officials also released school rankings. Harding University High School had the lowest graduation rate of 58 percent. In terms of grades, 19 CMS schools received an A grade, 48 a B grade, 60 a C grade, 38 a D grade and 10 were graded F.