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Math scores suffer, graduation rates soar in Guilford County Schools performance results for 2020-21

It was an academic year unlike any other. Now, GCS is sharing how their students did, and the plan to recover from learning loss.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Guilford County Schools students showed a significant decline in proficiency during the pandemic last year, according to data released by the district. 

GCS discussed state testing, graduation rates, and overall student achievement Friday afternoon.

The district said overall proficiency levels dropped from 55.1 percent in 2019, which was the last year tests were given, to 42.4 percent in 2021.

The district said the state was granted a waiver this year from test accountability and school performance grades, but because leaders wanted to be able to assess the extent of learning loss, tests were still required to be administered.

The district said math scores suffered the most, with proficiency drops between 10.5 and 18.6 percent from 2019. In response to the anticipated decline, the district said it's been working with college and advanced high school students to help tutor students since the spring. 

That's one of the recovery methods that will continue. Guilford County Schools laid out a number of recovery methods, including summer programs, resources for teachers, and extending the calendar to help students that are behind in work.

There were positive advancements, though. Guilford County Schools said the graduation rate was the highest in the district's history, at 91.4 percent. That's a higher graduation rate than all other large districts in the state and a higher rate than the state average. 

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said the soaring graduation rate could be attributed, in part, to staff getting out in the community to respond to student's needs. 

"I have pictures of principals showing up at Taco Bell or McDonalds to the student's places of work saying, 'We care about you, how can we help you, we know you have to work, but how can we help you finish school?'" she said.

Reading and English II showed a less severe drop. The district said English II dropped 3.5 percent in overall scores. Reading scored for elementary and middle school levels fell between 7.1 and 17.7 percent. 

Dr. Contreras said despite the road ahead, she's proud of the students, parents, and teachers for pushing through.

"We have a long way to go, but we still saw some things that we can say we did a good job, our staff did a good job under a tremendous amount of professional pressure, personal pressure. Many of them were going through struggles themselves in their own homes with their own children," she said. 

The 2020-21 academic year was one unlike any other as the pandemic shut down schools across the state and students made the abrupt switch to virtual learning. 

Students are back in the classrooms this year with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. All Triad schools are requiring students to wear masks until COVID-19 trends decline. 

Last week, Guilford County Schools Dr. Contreras said the district has no plans to go back to virtual learning. She said the district would only consider that if the health department or governor recommended it. 

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