Area schools show strides, setbacks on state test scores is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

scantron-300x225The report cards are in for area school districts, and grades run the gamut from superior to failing.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction released its 2014-15 READY Accountability data this week. It’s the second year under the new model, which includes an A through F system of ranking individual schools’ performance.

Graduation rates in the tri-county region dipped below the state average of 85.4 percent this time around, with New Hanover County’s nearly four percentage points behind. Although Brunswick County’s rate was higher than last year, it still remains almost two points below the average, and Pender County, one point.

Individual schools had better outcomes, with many making strides and achieving high marks. But some–like several New Hanover County high schools–fell short for 2014-15.

New Hanover County

Across the board, the district rose about state averages in proficiency standards for English and math in third through eighth grades, science in fifth through eighth and high school math, biology and English. The same was true of the career- and college-ready students in the same grades and subject areas.

Overall, 80 percent of the district’s schools met or exceeded expected growth requirements, including all of the elementary schools.

Results were a little more mixed, however, in the higher grades. Four of the district’s eight middle schools–Murray, Myrtle Grove, Roland-Grise and Williston–did not hit mandated growth targets. And all but one of the four traditional high schools–Hoggard–failed to meet their growth standards.

Accounting for some setbacks, district officials say the numbers are positive in this second year of tougher testing.

“The 2014-25 results show that New Hanover County Schools’ students are progressing and continue to surpass statewide results on the new and more rigorous assessments,” according to a release from the district.

And although it still falls short of the state average, New Hanover County’s graduation rate has been consistently on the rise for five years, jumping from 74.3 percent in 2011 to 81.6 percent for 2015.

Brunswick County

District leaders are applauding this year’s overall results as the outcome of a focused improvement plan following last year’s low scores.

A majority–68 percent–of district schools met or exceeded growth this year, a jump of 21 percent over 2013-14. And each of the county’s middle and high schools made or surpassed the set growth standards.

The district saw a continued increase in eighth-grade science scores, which rose another six percent this year, beating the state average by five percent.

“I am very proud of the efforts of our students and our school and district staff,” superintendent Les Tubb said. “Continuous improvement is a team effort. This progress gives us another opportunity to celebrate what’s right in Brunswick County Schools while remaining focused on our work.”

The district did not fare as well with elementary schools, however. Seven of ten elementary schools fell short of state expectations.

As Brunswick County Schools continues to implement improvement strategies, assistant superintendent Dr. Deanne Meadows said raising performance at the elementary level would be a focus this year. Taking a closer look at reading instruction and interventions and helping educators use their data to guide classroom teaching are necessary, she said.

“Each grade level has a new group of students and in some cases staff,” Meadows said. “What might have worked with last year’s students may not be the most effective this year. The only true way to stay in tune with the needs of our students is to continuously analyze data and adjust instruction.”

Pender County

Pender saw the greatest gains over last year in terms of school and district-wide performance.

All schools in the district met or exceeded growth expectations in 2014-15, up from 12 of the 16 schools the year before.

And all but three saw a rise in performance grades this past school year,  with three–Cape Fear Elementary, North Topsail Elementary and Burgaw Elementary–going up a grade letter. Cape Fear went from a D in 2013-14 to a C this testing cycle, as did Burgaw. North Topsail’s grade was a B for 2014-15, up from a C in 2013-14.

The accountability scores are not considered final until approval by the State Board of Education on Oct. 1.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at