Buncombe County Schools’ cohort graduation rate has increased by nearly 20 percentage points since 2006, with an average score of 19.1 on the ACT, higher than the state average. However, 77.3% of the district’s schools received a grade of C or better, with 10 schools deemed underperforming, five of which are in the Erwin District. The schools’ director of testing and accountability, Steve Earwood, argued that student proficiency and achievement is negatively correlated with the number of economically disadvantaged students, thus advocating for a focus on student growth instead.
Buncombe County Schools Performance Assessment
Steve Earwood, Buncombe County Schools’ director of testing and accountability, discussed the performance of the district during the 2022-23 academic year at a recent Buncombe County Board of Education meeting.
Earwood’s data report showed a significant increase in the cohort graduation rate since 2006, with 91% of freshmen graduating within four years, almost five points above the state average.
“The groundwork for this measure begins in kindergarten, where the foundation for learning is established,” Earwood explained.
He also noted that the district’s average ACT score is 19.1, outperforming the state average.
However, despite 77.3% of the district’s schools earning a C grade or higher based on state standards, Earwood recognized that 10 schools are still considered low-performing.
Board member Kim Plemmons critiqued this, arguing that the district needs to factor in the number of students learning English as a second language when evaluating school performance.
Earwood suggested that these students often fall within the economically disadvantaged category and this is considered in his analysis.
In the future, Earwood hopes to focus more on student growth rather than proficiency for school grading, anticipating a revision to the state grading system next spring.
Board member Rob Elliot stressed the importance of recognizing achievement gaps between different demographic subgroups to better allocate resources.
Jennifer Reed, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, emphasized the importance of high-quality teaching staff for improving performance in low-performing schools.
The board later voted to retain the principals at all 10 low-performing schools.
Proposed Consolidation of Buncombe County Schools
The recent House Bill 142 proposes a potential merger between Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools. The Buncombe school board has empowered the county government to facilitate the study on behalf of the districts.
Superintendent Rob Jackson noted that a request for proposals to conduct the study will be issued, with findings and recommendations due to the General Assembly by February 2025.