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Raleigh, N.C. — Nearly 600 North Carolina public schools missed a week or more of class after Hurricane Florence battered the state last September. The storm closed two schools permanently, damaged hundreds of others and caused more than 5,000 students to be homeless, according to the state education department.
Amid all the destruction, how did those students fare academically last year? Newly released school performance data from the 2018-19 school year show 139 of those schools – about 23% – exceeded academic growth expectations despite missing anywhere from five to more than 26 days of school. Nearly 80 of those schools are Title I, meaning they serve large percentages of children from poor families.
NC schools missing week or more due to Florence
Nearly 600 North Carolina schools, both traditional public and charter schools, missed a week or more due to Hurricane Florence. Search or sort the database to see how they fared academically in 2018-19. Schools showing a grade of ‘I’ had insufficient data. Alternative schools are marked with ‘ALT.’
Source: N.C. Department of Public Instruction
Lisa Godwin, the 2017 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, celebrated her school’s academic accomplishments on Twitter Wednesday after the school performance grades were released. She teaches kindergarten at Dixon Elementary in Onslow County, which earned a B grade and exceeded academic growth.
“Hurricane Florence may have kept us out of school for 8 weeks, but we persevered,” she wrote. “K-2nd grade teachers laid the foundation and our 3rd and 4th grade teachers brought the heat! So proud to be a Dixon Bulldog!”
The same day Godwin shared her school’s good news on social media, Onslow County Schools announced it would be closed for three days for another big storm – Hurricane Dorian.
Hurricane Florence did have an impact on students’ academics last school year, according to Tammy Howard, director of accountability services for the state Department of Public Instruction.
“It was determined that there was an impact for grade 3,” she told State Board of Education members this week. “It was around the beginning of grade 3 assessment … Some schools had to take that beginning of grade 3 assessment later. Some schools took it on time, but they were doing it under very stressful situations.”
An adjustment was made to the grade 3 academic growth analysis, Howard said, to account for the number of days students missed due to Hurricane Florence and “to ensure the validity and comparability” of the data.
All North Carolina public schools, including charter schools, have received A through F letter grades since 2013-14, when the General Assembly passed legislation requiring it. Schools are also judged on whether their students exceeded, met or did not meet academic growth expectations during the year.
More than a third of North Carolina’s approximately 2,500 public schools received a performance grade of A or B last school year and 28 percent of all schools exceeded academic growth expectations. Nearly 120 schools received both a performance grade of A and exceeded academic growth.
Critics of the grading system, including the Public School Forum of North Carolina, say school grades are more indicative of which schools have the highest concentrations of students living in poverty than how well educators are teaching children.
Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the state “should be giving our educators and students the resources they need to be successful, rather than wasting precious time and money on a punitive grading system that relies on high-stakes testing.”