Stagnant excellence: Haywood schools steady in top 10 percent
The bad news is that Haywood County Schools failed to improve upon last year’s school district performance ranking.
The good news is that there isn’t much room for improvement — for the second straight year, only 10 of 115 school districts across North Carolina performed better than Haywood County did.
“We are very excited and proud of our system,” said Chuck Francis, Chairman of the Haywood County School Board. “I saw some systems that had been nipping at our heels kind of fell back, so this took a lot of hard work.”
Statistics released by the North Carolina Board of Public Instruction’s Accountability Services Division Sept. 7 show a slight increase in Haywood County Schools’ district performance composite score, from 66.8 for the 2015-16 school year to 68 for the 2016-17 year.
That growth of 1.8 percent outpaced the state as a whole, which saw district composite scores rise 1.54 percent to 59.2.
According to Francis, the results come from “allowing the administration flexibility and allowing them to operate in a system where they’re supported.”
Individual schools within the district are also given a performance composite score, and, since 2013, a traditional letter grade as well; no Haywood County school has ever received a D or an F, but 64.3 percent of Haywood schools earned either an A or B, compared to just 35.8 percent of public schools across the state.
Accolades aside, there are some concerning trends apparent — especially in the county’s elementary schools — that hopefully won’t persist as students advance to middle school and high school.
Every single Haywood County elementary school saw a decrease in composite performance scores, from the slight .93 percent slip at Hazelwood Elementary to the more significant declines logged at Junaluska Elementary (6.68), North Canton Elementary (6.46 percent) and Bethel Elementary (6.15 percent).
Even Riverbend Elementary — last year’s highest scoring Haywood school — saw composite scores drop by 4.13 percent, but it was the only school in Haywood to be given a A+ grade. With a composite score of 88.1, Riverbend remains almost 50 percent higher than the state average.
But the county’s three middle schools — Bethel, Canton and Waynesville — showed good progress, increasing their scores 1.38 percent, 1.26 percent and 9.66 percent respectively.
The county’s high schools also boast budding scores; Haywood Early College’s score increased 8.20 percent, from 86.6 last year to 93.7 percent this year — unseating Riverbend Elementary as the county’s highest-scoring school.
Pisgah High School’s scores grew from 62.1 to 66.2, or 6.6 percent, and Tuscola High School showed a modest gain from 56.7 to 59.1, or about 4.23 percent.
Tuscola, however was deemed to have “not met” academic growth expectations; every other county public school met or exceeded them except North Canton Elementary and Central Haywood High.
Francis said that plans were being made to address some of the weaker performances.
“Pretty soon, we’ll get a much more detailed briefing to disaggregate all the scores, but then we can focus on some schools and subjects, identify those areas, and create action plans.”
The Haywood school with the fastest growing score this year posted gains of a stunning 37.21 percent, climbing from a 2015-16 score of 17.2 to a current score of 23.6.
Although this year’s 11th place finish is identical to last year’s, that rank is up from 15th in the two previous school years, preserving Haywood County’s status as a strong regional choice for public education; no county west of Haywood scored better than Haywood’s 68.
In the far west, Cherokee County posted a 62.8, Clay 54.2 and Graham 56.3.
Closer to home, Swain scored 65.7, Macon 61.7 and Jackson 53.4.
To the east, Madison County was reported at 66.5, Transylvania at 64.2 and Buncombe County at 62.3. Asheville city schools weighed in at 65.8.
Nearby Henderson and Yancey counties bested Haywood slightly, with respective scores of 70 and 69.4.
Read the report
Comprehensive school performance data is available online from the N. C. Board of Public Instruction’s Accountability Services Division.