On Thursday, September 1, school district officials in Franklin County had reason to celebrate. After the State’s school performance data release, it became evident the district’s efforts to improve the quality of education in Franklin County was met with success. Under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga, nine out of 16 total schools saw a full letter grade increase on their state report card. Furthermore, the district went from seven low-performing schools, as designated by state reports, to just three.
All in one year’s time.
The North Carolina General Assembly adopted school performance grades in 2013 and every public and charter school throughout the state is subject to school letter grades. The grades are based on an 80/20 formula – 80 percent of the school grade is based on student proficiency on end-of-year tests, while just 20 percent of the grade is based on student growth.
For 2015-16, three out of four high schools in FCS are graded as a “B.” That’s a mirror image of 2014-15 data, where three of four high schools were graded as “C.” At the elementary level, all but one school is listed as C or better – Mubenga’s goal for the year. And schools, such as Laurel Mill Elementary, Royal Elementary, Long Mill Elementary, Terrell Lane Middle, and Louisburg High School, saw performance score increases of ten points or more.
“Operation C or Better was our theme for the year and I’m pleased with the results, but we still have work to do,” says Mubenga. “Our teachers, principals, and students all worked very hard to see these results come to fruition and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication.”
At the middle school level, Terrell Lane Middle saw significant gains, earning a grade of “C” and exceeding student growth by more than six points on the state’s growth index. This means, as a whole, the school grew student proficiency more than one academic year in just one academic year. Franklinton Middle School also reversed its “F” grade and is now ranked as a “D,” however the school retains its “low-performing” designation.
Mubenga commends FMS principal, Trenton Brown, for his efforts and is looking for great things out of FMS this year.
“Mr. Brown and his team worked very hard to raise the expectations of students and they’ve seen positive gains because of this,” he says. “Our district team will continue to provide as much support as possible to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed at Franklinton Middle School and at all of our schools.”
Throughout the 2015-16 school year, district officials focused on in-house professional development for teachers. According to Associate Superintendent, Dr. Rhonda Schuhler, it’s because of this strategic professional development and an emphasis on protecting instructional time that the district is seeing these results.
“Our team has spent countless hours working with teachers, principals, and coaches to ensure our staff has the resources and skills they need to get the job done,” she says. “We’ve spent the last academic year laser-focused on improving our results; we’ve done this because we know that every student deserves to have a solid foundation for a great future.”
Schuhler also notes that double the amount of schools exceeded student growth for 2015-16 when compared to 2014-15 and 14 of 16 schools met or exceeded growth, according to state reports.
Franklin County Schools also made significant gains in closing the achievement gap between the District’s overall results and the state average. In 2015, the district trailed the state average by more than seven points, for 2016 they’re just 3.3 points off the state average. That’s an improvement of more than 42 percent year over year, and according to Mubenga, that’s just the beginning.
“We have all the ingredients to be a great school district,” he says. “Franklin County has always been a good district – we were good 10 years ago when I was here as an assistant principal – but there is competition among other districts and charters in our area, and this data demonstrates that we’re up to the task of competing.”
Among sub-groups, Schuhler says FCS really saw improvements. “Based on our data, we’ve seen increases greater than eight percent among minority sub-groups over the last three years,” she says. This includes significant gains in student performance among black males and Hispanic students – two of the most statistically disadvantaged groups nation-wide. Furthermore, proficiency among white students has increased by more than four percent since 2013, according to the results. Overall, Franklin County Schools’ proficiency rates at 55 percent, just short of the state’s average of 58.3 percent.
In 2015, Franklin County Schools ranked 82nd among 115 districts in North Carolina. For 2016, FCS ranked 63rd in the state; or a jump in rank by nearly 20 positions.
“Our success wouldn’t be anything without the support of our staff, school board, and community,” says Mubenga. “But most importantly, it’s because of our specific plan for dedicated improvement that Franklin County Schools continues to flourish.”