NHCS: School funding not tied to number of students passing or failing

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — With higher failure rates than normal at schools in New Hanover County, there has been concern for students of all grade levels about whether more students will have to be held back.

There have also been questions about whether this would impact the district’s funding.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Academic Accountability Dr. LaChawn Smith says funding for the school district is not impacted if more students fail this year.

“Our emphasis right now is about learning, so we want to make sure we’re assessing, not necessarily whether students have done the work or not, but whether they have learned the content,” Smith said. “So we’re encouraging teachers to provide additional opportunities for students to demonstrate that they’ve learned the material.”

Smith says these opportunities can come in the form of retakes, essays on what the student has learned on a certain topic or alternative assignments.

On one hand, Smith says they don’t want to fail students.

“Giving a student a failing grade is not instructive,” she said. “And so as soon as you give that child an F or a zero, it almost gives them permission to just quit, and we don’t want our children to quit.”

On the other hand, there has been concern from families over whether students are prepared for the next grade.

“We are definitely encouraging grace,” Smith said. “There are a lot of mitigating circumstances with families related to health. Related to finances. what we’re encouraging teachers to do is show flexibility.”

She says they compared beginning of the year 3rd grade assessment from last year and this year, and didn’t find a significant difference. Overall, Smith says 3rd graders this year came into the year at the same performance level as 3rd graders at the beginning of last year.

She also says the number of students who fail does not impact funding for the district.

“Our funding is based partly on ADM, which is Average Daily Membership,” Smith said. “So it really is about children in attendance. Not necessarily which grade those children are in attendance.”

If students do stay back a grade level, she says they might need to add new classes and reassign teachers where they’re needed, but they wouldn’t lose funding.

“It’s not about teachers erasing a current grade a rewriting another one in the grade book,” she said. “It is about really better understanding whether or not our children can demonstrate what they’ve learned.”

In years past, Smith explains some teachers have gotten end of year bonuses based on end of grade test scores, but those bonuses are not related to overall passing grades. She says the money comes from the state legislature and applies to every school district in the state.

Smith says this wasn’t in place last year, because student didn’t take end of year tests due to the pandemic.

Smith will give a presentation on new information about elementary school students and learning at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

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