Since the 2013-2014 school year the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction have been giving North Carolina schools a school performance grade (SPG) each year based on a number of factors such as: the percentage of students performing at grade level, academic growth and ACT score. RJR, despite being on the National Register of Historic Places and having a legacy of academic excellence, received a C grade for the past three years. Until now.
Last school year Leslie Alexander took over Pat Olsen as principal of RJR and she brought a slew of changes with her including the innovative Professional Learning Team (PLT) meetings, campus beautification and the less-than-popular changes in cell phone policy. However popular they were seems inconsequential now, when looking at the growth RJR has seen. In one school year, Alexander brought the Reynolds SPG from a C to an A.
“Initially I did not agree with what she was doing as a principal, but as time has gone on I have realized it hasn’t been bad and I think she is doing a pretty good job,” senior Walter Lemus said.
Alexander’s new focus on data recognition may be the biggest factor in this higher performance at RJR. Using this data, Alexander and the faculty have been identifying areas of proficiency and areas of weakness in the student body, thus being able to address specific areas (such as Math I or English II) that need more attention and help.
“Our teaching is an art, but it is also a science,” Alexander said. “We can look at what we can do to make things better.”
The SPG is a composite score of two separate scores, the achievement score and the growth score. Achievement counts for 80 percent of the overall score and growth counts for 20 percent. While the achievement scores this past year at RJR were noticeably improved, it is the growth that is truly astonishing.
Of the five groups of students that growth is measured in (highest, mid-high, middle, low-mid and lowest average achievement), Reynolds students saw improvement in every single sector on the End of Course (EOC) Biology exam. In the English II EOC, there was growth in three of the five sectors.
“Growth is more important to me, because it says that the teachers are doing everything they can to help our kids learn,” Alexander said. “I would rather have a B grade and meet our expected growth than have an A and not meet growth.”
Alexander is proud of this accomplishment, but will not stop striving to improve growth and achievement through lesson planning, PLT meetings and tools like Achieve 3000 (a resource that measures lexile score).
“I have always really liked Reynolds and it has always seemed like a good school to me, and I think our new A grade reflects that,” Lemus said.
Photo from David Rolfe/Winston Salem-Journal