Nearly all KCS schools meet or exceed growth in 2016

Nearly all KCS schools meet or exceed growth in 2016
Posted on 09/01/2016
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The State Board of Education has approved final test results for the 2015-2016 school year. They show that 75% of Kannapolis City Schools met or exceeded the state’s goals for academic growth, which is an increase of 12-and-a-half percentage points over 2015. Kannapolis City Schools also improved its overall level of student proficiency in 2016. The charts below show the academic growth status of each KCS school, the percentage of students at each school that scored at grade level or above, and the district’s overall proficiency level by subject area.   



Kannapolis City Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Chip Buckwell, says the hard work of KCS students and staff is showing results. “We achieved a tremendous amount of growth in 2015-16, and I’m very proud of our students and staff for the excellent work they did. Two of our schools, Kannapolis Intermediate School and Kannapolis Middle School, each increased their growth by more than 10 points, which is phenomenal. We still are not where we want to be in terms of overall achievement, but we’ve made significant changes during the past year that are making a difference and moving us forward. For example, we have added resources for reading, math, and science at all our schools, and we are providing continuing education for all our staff throughout the year. We also have teachers working together to design lesson plans that help students go beyond just a surface knowledge of subjects and gain a deeper understanding of the curriculum. Another big change is that we will add Global Studies, Language Immersion, and Arts magnet programs to the district next year. All of these changes plus the fact that we have outstanding educators at all our schools will help us make even more gains and see significant proficiency increases across the district.” 


Another of the performance measures that was released today by the state was the high school graduation rate. During 2015-2016, KCS saw a decline in its four-year graduation rate. It went from 85.3% in 2015 to 82.3% in 2016. However, the district’s five-year graduation rate rose to 86.4%, which was an increase of more than two percentage points over the previous year. 


North Carolina also released School Performance Grades for all public schools in the state. The grades are required by the legislature and give every school a letter grade from A to F. The grades are based on standardized test scores from the 2015-2016 school year. At the high school level, 80% of the grade is based on results from a variety of performance measures: end of course tests, four-year graduation rate, ACT scores, WorkKeys results, and the percentage of students that successfully complete higher level math. Only 20% of a high school’s grade is based on how much academic growth students make. For K-8 schools, 80% of their grade is based on end of grade test results while only 20% is based on academic growth.


The fact that North Carolina’s school performance grading system puts a heavy emphasis on proficiency over academic growth means schools can receive low grades despite tremendous academic progress by their students. Kannapolis City Schools’ Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Kelly Burgess, says the letter grades are not the best measure of how well schools are performing. “From an educational perspective, student growth is a much better measure of how well a school is doing than standardized test results,” Burgess says. “Research consistently shows that standardized tests say much more about students’ economic background than they do about how much children are learning. Having a more balanced formula that puts more emphasis on academic growth would provide a clearer picture of how well North Carolina schools are serving students.”


During the 2014-2015 school year, 99% of schools in North Carolina that received a grade of F had more than half their students receiving free or reduced price lunches. By contrast, more than eight in ten NC schools that received a grade of A had low percentages of students living in poverty. The chart below shows these results:



Kannapolis City Schools did not have any schools that received a grade of F. However, under the new school performance grading system, schools that receive a D or F are considered low performing even if their students meet the state’s expectations for academic growth. Using that standard, KCS has schools that are considered low performing despite the fact that most of them made strong academic growth.


Superintendent, Dr. Chip Buckwell, says he is disappointed that KCS has been labeled as low performing based on School Performance Grades. “Our proficiency scores are not where we want them to be, and everyone in Kannapolis City Schools is committed to making them better. However, I don’t think the label we have received accurately reflects what is happening in our classrooms. Our graduating class of 2016 earned more than $3 million in scholarships, and we had two students appointed to U.S. Military academies. We also had a North Carolina culinary arts champion and several teachers that won national and state recognition. Despite the fact that our schools made great academic growth last year, they were not rewarded for that progress. I hope the legislature will address this issue and make academic growth a larger part of how our schools are measured. In the meantime, I’m confident that we have the right people in place and are doing the right things to make our students successful in Kannapolis City Schools.”


Dr. James Ellerbe is a School and District Transformation Coach with the NC Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh. He spent time evaluating several KCS schools during the 2015-2016 school year. “As a member of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Western Service Support Team,” Ellerbe says, “I have had the privilege of doing learning walks in Kannapolis City Schools as part of the school improvement process. During those visits, our team did classroom observations, reviewed data, and interviewed staff and students. We saw that KCS is using sound, research-based practices to improve student achievement throughout the district, and we all agree that KCS is on the right track!”


The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has posted additional data for schools, districts, and the state at The information released today will be included in the North Carolina School Report Card, which will be sent to all parents in October.  

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