Haywood County Schools recognizes academic success

HCS principals were recognized for academic success at a recent school board meeting. HCS photo HCS principals were recognized for academic success at a recent school board meeting. HCS photo

After the last school year, Haywood County Schools held onto its seventh-place ranking in the state, out of 115 school districts, in academic performance. The school system first attained this historic high-water mark during the 2021-22 school year, prior to which it was ranked 10th. 

At its Jan. 16 meeting, the Haywood County School Board recognized principals and schools for their academic performance last year, specifically in regard to academic student growth and graduation rates, both of which go into the high state ranking HCS has achieved.

“I think we need to remember we’re still in very difficult times. Public schools in general post-COVID, it’s been really hard on our teachers,” said Assistant Superintendent Jill Barker. “We did our very best in Haywood County; I’m proud of that, but it’s been a journey. And for our principals and our schools and our teachers to hang in there with our kids and have the type of academic success we’ve had in Haywood County that we’re seventh in the state out of 115 districts, I think sometimes we don’t let that soak in — the power of the education we’re giving kids.” 

Haywood Early College achieved an “outstanding” graduation rate with 98% of students graduating following the 2022-23 school year. This score is well above the district-wide graduation rate of 90.7% and even higher above the state average of 86.4%.

“To have a graduation rate of 98%, to be recognized by the state of North Carolina is a huge undertaking,” said Barker. “We’re very proud of [Ms. Fox, principal at Haywood Early College].”

Three schools in the district exceeded academic growth. Student growth is classified as the amount of academic progress that students make over the course of a grade or a class. This will vary widely for students depending on the level at which they enter a grade. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction measures growth based on end-of-grade and end-of-course assessments, career and technical education state assessments, North Carolina final exams and K-3 checkpoints.

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“To make growth, you are doing really, really well. You are doing what the state has asked you to do,” Barker said. “When you are exceeding growth, your school is fundamentally doing something very different.”

In order to meet academic growth, schools must attain a score between negative two and positive two on the state scoring system. Meadowbrook Elementary School exceeded growth standards with a score of 3.14, Canton Middle School with 4.48 and Pisgah High School with 7.81.

“Congratulations to them,” said Barker, addressing the school principals. “I just want you guys to know that I know that that is hard work.” 

Seven other schools in the district met academic growth standards, meaning they scored within the four-point range — Bethel Elementary, Haywood Early College, Hazelwood Elementary, Jonathan Valley, Riverbend and Tuscola.

“To make growth in challenging times, I’m very, very proud of these schools,” said Barker. “Every school has a story, and every school has different situations and levels of experience. So these schools are to be commended too and I’m very proud of them.” 

Among the 14 counties in the western region of North Carolina, Pisgah was the highest-performing high school, Haywood Early College was the highest performing early college, Bethel Middle was the highest-performing middle school and Riverbend Elementary was the highest-performing elementary school. What’s more, the county had no low-performing schools.

“That’s taken a lot of work,” said Barker.

Haywood County Schools also had a composite performance grade that was well above the state average. While 53.6% of students in the state were proficient on state exams, more than 64% of Haywood students were proficient.

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