Dear Parents, Students and Community Stakeholders,
Newton-Conover City Schools has long been a shining example of how hard work, a supportive community, and a belief in the value of a strong education can impact the life of children, families, and communities. Recently our State General Assembly announced a plan to report ratings of individual schools on a scale of A-F. These calculations placed most schools across the state at grades of C, D or F with the rationale that “C” was where a typical school would be. The 2013-14 school year is the first year public schools and charter schools will receive a letter grade under the General Assembly’s School Performance Grades Rating. There has been much controversy over the limited scope of these assigned letter grades. Grades are on each school’s students’ achievement scores on the newly revised state exams and on students’ academic growth. These letter grades come on the heels of the state deciding to self-impose “raising of the bar” on state exams which resulted in only 56.2% of all students in the state receiving a passing level of 4 or 5. The rationale from the state was that with new, rigorous assessments that are built on new standards, scores across the state would drop significantly because staff and students must adjust to the increased rigor and new test formats. Prior to revamping the state tests, all Newton-Conover Schools consistently achieved passing levels of 80-90%. These adjustments to tests are similar to what has happened many times in our state. As schools perform better and better on state exams, the state increases the rigor to “raise the bar” of expectation. Scores would be low for a couple of years but continue to improve until schools were performing at an exponentially high level again when the standards and assessments would again be adjusted, and the same progression would begin again.
Since the performance of public schools will now be boiled down to a simple letter grade, a quandary has been developing that will unfortunately lead to drastically increased scrutiny of public education. Schools are receiving a letter grade from the General Assembly, with no regard to the fact that student test scores are down because of the increased expectations. In N-CCS, we embrace accountability and want to be the best possible stewards of public dollars since we ourselves also contribute to this tax base. At the same time, we believe that the true picture of each school’s performance may not be consistently communicated with the public because many individuals in the community simply do not have time to do a thorough investigation of public schools. Instead, they have to rely on indicators provided by the state and typically reported by various forms of media and social media whose reporting may not always be completely accurate.
In Newton-Conover, we understand that there are many variables that contribute to the total school experience as well as to the success of the student. Our goal is to fill gaps in our students’ learning and improve the quality of their lives. With this in mind, the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce and the Newton-Conover City Schools’ Board of Education worked with area businesses and other stakeholders to determine what our community expects from our schools in terms of accountability. These measures include test scores, graduation rates, student safety, teacher satisfaction, percent of students going to 2 or 4 year colleges, teacher value-add measures calculated by the state, participation in extracurricular activities, and other measures of success.
These measures demonstrate how each school in Newton-Conover compared to ALL schools in the entire state. As you’ll see, our schools compare very well. For your child’s school, we have attached the rubric that shows how the school compared to all other schools in the state and a letter grade that was assigned based upon a holistic measure developed and reviewed by the N-CCS Board of Education. The Catawba County Chamber of Commerce will be able to use this detailed report to make sure that all of its shareholders, investors and the community at large see this comparison data to better judge how our schools are performing overall based on a variety of indicators and not just on a standardized test score. Additionally, I’d like to remind you of other rankings and achievements our district has received that are not reflected in the state report card over the past couple of years:
- U. S. News and World Report ranked Newton-Conover High School 13th out of 607 North Carolina High Schools in 2014 and the 14th highest in the state in 2013.
- Niche, an online source for rating schools https://niche.com/ rated N-CCS as the 18th best school district in North Carolina (out of 115 districts) in their 2015 ratings.
- N-CCS holds a Back to School Bash each year to welcome students back to school. In August 2014, over 550 backpacks full of supplies were given away in the first 30 minutes due to community donations and partnerships with area churches and community members.
- N-CCS has a Kids In Need Fund that is funded through private donations. KIN focuses on meeting the physical needs of our students and their families. Since our district Free and Reduced Lunch population is around 70%, there is a great need for this kind of assistance.
- N-CCS is one of a small number of North Carolina school districts that met 100% of the English as a Second Language testing targets.
- N-CCS boasts a variety of specialized learning options for students that are in place or will be in place by the Fall including: Leader In Me (South Newton Elementary School), Blended Learning (Shuford Elementary School), Global Community School (North Newton Elementary School), Totally Responsible Person and STEM (Newton-Conover Middle School), and Project-Based Learning (Discovery High School).
- One of our teachers won the nationally recognized Milken Award for Excellence (Angie Sigmon, Shuford Elementary School).
- In the past three school years alone, Newton-Conover High School has won 5 North Carolina High School State Championships (Wrestling-2, Men’s Golf-2, Men’s Soccer-1). Since 2007 they have won 10 team athletic championships in 6 different sports.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for reviewing the A-F ratings for your respective school(s). If you have any questions or would like more information about Newton-Conover City Schools, please contact us by phone visit our website: www.nccs.k12.nc.us.
David A. Stegall, Ed. D.
Superintendent, Newton-Conover City Schools