by Tori Hamby

Schools in Huntersville fared worse than their counterparts in Cornelius and Davidson on state-mandated tests, according to the state’s report on academic achievement in public schools.

Data released Aug. 2 by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction in its annual ABCs of Education report shows more students in Cornelius and Davidson scored at least a Level 3 on End of Grade and End of Course tests than Huntersville students. The state considers students who score a Level 3 or above to be “proficient” for their grade level.

Huntersville schools received the lowest proficiency rates in the area, many in the high 70s. Davidson and Cornelius schools boasted percentages in the 90s.

Long Creek Elementary ranked the lowest in north Mecklenburg with a proficiency rate of 76.8 percent. J.M. Alexander Middle, North Mecklenburg High, Blythe Elementary and Hopewell High followed with respective proficiency percentages of 77.9, 78.3, 79.1 and 79.2.

Compare that to the Davidson and Cornelius areas, where many schools earned the title “Honor School of Excellence,” the highest designation the state can give. This means at least 90 percent of students, as well as students within ethnic and socio-economic subgroups, scored a Level 3 or higher on End of Grade and End of Course tests.

Cornelius schools Bailey Middle, Cornelius Elementary, Hough High and J.V. Washam Elementary received proficiency rates of 90.4, 90.2, 93 and 89.6 respectively. Davidson Elementary received a 93.3 proficiency rate.

Huntersville and Torrence Creek elementary schools, both in Huntersville, bucked the trend, however, and earned Honor School of Excellence recognition. Huntersville Elementary received a proficiency rate of 94.9, while Torrence Creek Elementary came in at 93.3 percent.

Huntersville Elementary Principal Deborah Mangieri credited her school’s inquiry-based learning program for keeping a diverse student population engaged in learning. Teachers set aside one period each day for students to use the Internet and other tools to conduct their own research.

“It incorporates so many skills, and the students don’t even realize that they are learning,” Mangieri said.

She added that schools in Huntersville – especially those in the southern part of the town – have a higher number of transient students who stay at schools for only a short period of time. Families in the Cornelius and Davidson tend to be more established and move around less.

“We do get many new students every year and ours have a tendency to come and go,” she said.

Area high school graduation rates also showed significant inconsistency between the Huntersville and Cornelius/Davidson areas. More than 95 percent of seniors graduated from Hough High, which pulls its students from Cornelius and Davidson, compared with 79.2 at Hopewell High and 78.3 at North Mecklenburg High, both located in Huntersville.

CMS’s district-wide graduation rate rose from 75.5 to 75.1 percent. The statewide rate came in at 80.2 percent.

The report also showed four local schools failed to meet all of their Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs). The state divides students within a school or district by subgroups based on race,
socio-economic status or disabilities and expects certain percentages of students within each group to show proficiency on statewide testing.

AMOs replaced federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks after North Carolina received a waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements. Schools with a greater amount of diversity, and therefore more AMOs to meet, might have a harder time meeting all of their targets.

This will be the last year that the state releases its ABCs of Education report. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction plans to shift to online testing and an A-F rating system in the upcoming school year.

For a full report on area schools’ proficiency rates and state title designations, read the story Eight area schools earn School of Excellence designations from state.

By the numbers

School name Percent of students proficient

Bailey Middle 90.4

Barnette Elementary 87.7 Blythe Elementary 79.1

Bradley Middle 85.3

Community School of Davidson 96

Cornelius Elementary 90.2

Davidson Elementary 93.3

Hopewell High 79.2

Hough High 93

Huntersville Elementary 94.9

J.M. Alexander Middle 77.9

J.V. Washam Elementary 89.6

Lake Norman Charter 94.2

Long Creek Elementary 76.8

North Mecklenburg High 78.3

Torrence Creek Elementary 93.3