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Testing Data: WNC schools show growth in pandemic recovery

 None of the four school districts in SMN’s coverage area received a “low-performing” designation. File photo None of the four school districts in SMN’s coverage area received a “low-performing” designation. File photo

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released performance and growth data for the 2022-23 school year, and none of the four school districts in the Smoky Mountain News coverage area received a low-performing state designation. 


Both Haywood and Swain counties had no low-performing schools, Macon County had one low-performing school and Jackson County had four.

The accountability report for the 2022-23 school year is only the second such report since the 2018-19 school year to feature all elements of the state’s accountability framework, including the calculator of growth designations and performance grades, due to the disruptions to teaching and learning caused by the pandemic.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact of the pandemic,” State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said in a press release, “but teachers across North Carolina are working harder than ever to help students recover, and more importantly, advance in their learning. We owe them our gratitude for meeting this challenge to improve outcomes for students.” 

For the first time since the pandemic, over 50% of elementary and middle school students in North Carolina achieved grade level proficiency in reading and math.

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The data gives every individual school a letter grade, A through F, based on each school’s achievement score from assessments such as end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, English language assessments, ACT scores, four-year graduation rates and students’ academic growth. The assessments account for 80% of the letter grade and growth accounts for 20%.

“The A-F school performance grades that schools received for 2021-22 and in 2022-23 were affected by the formula used to determine those grades because student performance on the state tests far outweighs the credit schools earn for the progress students make on the same tests from one year to the next,” said Truitt. “Eighty percent of the grade is for the percentage of tests earning a score of at least grade-level proficient; 20% is for growth, measured by a statistical model that compares each student’s predicted test score, based on past performance, against his or her actual result.” 


Haywood County Schools remains seventh in the state among 115 school systems in academic performance. The school system rose to this ranking after accountability data was released for the 2021-22 school year . Prior to that, the system was ranked 10th.

Among 14 counties in the western region of North Carolina, Pisgah is the highest performing high school, Haywood Early College is the highest performing early college, Bethel Middle is the highest performing middle school and Riverbend Elementary is the highest performing elementary school.

“We are extremely proud of our kids, teachers and staff,” said Superintendent Trevor Putnam. “Resiliency and commitment to academic excellence continue to be a part of our daily instruction. A ranking is far more than a number. It is a clear indication of the level of commitment each staff member has to our kids and student readiness for success beyond school. Our kids are better prepared than 108 other school districts across the state. We have the best kids and staff anywhere.” 

A majority of schools in the district received a C letter grade. Bethel Elementary, Bethel Middle and Pisgah and Tuscola High Schools all received B grades. Haywood Early College received the lone A grade. Haywood County Schools has never had a school receive a D or F grade.

Clyde Elementary, Junaluska Elementary, North Canton Elementary and Waynesville Middle were the only schools that did not meet growth standards, up from just three schools that did not meet growth standards in the previous school year.

“We are proud of our continued academic progress in Haywood County,” said Jill Barker, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Our students, staff and communities have weathered many traumatic events over the past several years. These academic standings prove we are a school system dedicated to the educational advancement of all students, regardless of our circumstances.” 

Haywood County Schools’ composite performance shows 64.6% of its students were proficient on state exams during the 2022-23 school year, well above the state average of 53.6%, and slightly higher than its composite performance during the 2021-22 school year of 63.4%. It also had a 90.7% graduation rate, well above the state average of 86.4%.


In Jackson County, eight out of nine schools met or exceeded expected academic growth for the second year in a row. Last year was the first time this many schools met growth standards since 2013.

Blue Ridge School exceeded growth; Blue Ridge Early College, Cullowhee Valley School, Jackson Community, Jackson County Early College, Scotts Creek, Smokey Mountain Elementary and Smoky Mountain High all met growth standards. Fairview did not meet growth status for the 2022-23 school year.  

Three Jackson County Schools received a school performance grade D — Blue Ridge Early College, Cullowhee Valley and Scotts Creek. Three schools received a C — Blue Ridge School, Fairview and Smoky Mountain High School — and Jackson County Early College received an A. Smokey Mountain Elementary School received an F.

The school system maintained a graduation rate of 87.8%, ranking 50th out of 115 districts in this area, and just above the state graduation rate of 86.4%.

Jackson County Schools composite performance shows 47.7% of its students were proficient on state exams during the 2022-23 school year, down from 48% the previous year and below the current state average.


In Macon County, all schools except for Mountain View Intermediate and Union Academy met growth standards.

Highlands School and Macon Early College received B performance grades. Cartoogechaye Elementary, East Franklin Elementary, Franklin High School, Iotla Valley Elementary, Macon Middle School and South Macon Elementary all received C performance grades. Mountain View Intermediate and Nantahala School received a D, and Macon Virtual Academy received the lone F.

Macon County Schools maintained a graduation rate of 92.7%. Its composite performance shows 51.9% of its students were proficient on state exams during the 2022-23 school year, below the state average of 53.6% and slightly below Macon’s proficiency rate last year of 52.5%.


In Swain County, Swain County High School was the only institution that did not meet growth standards. Swain County Middle School exceeded growth standards and both elementary schools, East and West, met growth standards. All four schools received C performance grades.

Swain County Schools maintained a graduation rate of 87.7%; above the state average. Its composite performance shows that 48.9% of students were proficient on state exams during the 2022-23 school year, below the state average, but slightly higher than last year’s rate of 48.2%.

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