For both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school year, New Hope Elementary School scored a “C” grade on its annual report card. That report card provides both a letter grade and scores, which are on a scale from zero to 100, for overall student performance growth and for growth in reading and math.
New Hope met growth expectations in 2015-16 and had an overall student performance growth score of 66, which was seventh out of 12 schools in the OCS system.
In 2016-17, the score went down to 57 — the lowest in the OCS system. Growth expectations were not met; reading and math scores went down by 7 and 4 points, respectively.
But according to Wilson, the improvements from 2016-17 aren't yet apparent. Her focus has been on strengthening core instruction, giving kindergartners stronger language skills, diversifying staff and restructuring lesson plans to focus more on state standards.
“We feel 100 percent confident that we're doing the right work, but it takes time for that to show up in that data,” Wilson said.
But change isn't taking place just in the school system — county government agencies Orange Family Success Alliance are aiding school's efforts toward growth. FSA serves two low-income "zones" with an advisory board members from health care agencies and local nonprofits.
New Hope is located in Zone 4, where one in four children live below the poverty line; its two traditional schools, New Hope and Stanback Middle School, qualify for Title I support.
The FSA has several initiatives, including a kindergarten-readiness program aimed at students who haven’t been in a preschool classroom. According to a recent report by the FSA’s partners at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, students in these programs are meeting benchmarks and gaining literacy and math skills at a significantly higher rate than their peers.
“You come in and you wash your hands and all those different routines," said Coby Jansen Austin, FSA's program and policy director. "Things that kids in early childhood education settings have experience with, but that those who haven't may not be as familiar with, so it might be a rougher start to the school year without that context.”
Wilson said she and her staff are working hard, and the positive energy in the building is driving intense efforts to improve, but that there are still issues to work out.
“I think some of the biggest challenges for New Hope are maximizing resources to meet student need and just ensuring that we are setting high expectations for all kids and providing engaging, relevant instruction.”