First ‘A’ School: Schools Improve Grades

Staff Writer

Moore County Schools students have regained nearly all of the academic ground lost during remote learning at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state released data on Wednesday from state tests administered this spring, as public schools closed out the second full year of traditional instruction following the pandemic. 

Overall, that data showed that 60.3 percent of Moore County Schools’ students performed at or above grade level in tested subjects from third grade through high school. 

The district’s own report card also improved. Since North Carolina began assigning letter grades to individual schools a decade ago, none of the district’s campuses have merited an “A.” 

That changed this year with Pinehurst Elementary earning an “A” performance grade based on student proficiency and year-over-year growth. Of the district’s 22 schools, including the Connect Virtual Academy, nine improved their letter grades this year. 

“We could not be more proud of the work of our entire employee team and the growth of each of our students,” Superintendent Tim Locklair said in a release.

“Our focused efforts will continue, but we are very happy with the progress and excited about our continued growth this school year.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Aberdeen and Robbins Elementary joined the list of “D” rated schools after being rated “F” in 2022. 

Highfalls Elementary, Sandhills Farm Life Elementary and West Pine Middle improved to a “B” rating. McDeeds Creek Elementary, Pinecrest High and West End Elementary maintained “B” ratings from last year.

Two schools fell in the ratings, with Crain’s Creek Middle dropping to a “D” from a “C” and the previously “B” rated Union Pines falling to a “C.” Elise Middle maintained a “D” rating from last year.

The Connect Virtual Academy earned a “C” in its first year being graded. 

The Cameron, Westmoore and Southern Pines elementary schools all pulled up a letter grade from “D” to “C.” Carthage Elementary, New Century Middle, North Moore High, Southern Middle, Vass-Lakeview Elementary and West Pine Elementary all maintained “C” grades. 

The grades and overall growth in proficiency reflect a rebound after sharp declines in passing rates around the state when students were tested in 2021.

From 2019 to 2021, the proportion of Moore County Schools students who were working at or above grade level in reading and math fell to 52 percent from 61 percent. Last spring’s testing showed some growth, with overall proficiency levels just above 56 percent. 

“This year, our data shows we’ve almost fully recovered from the pandemic with current proficiency at 60.3.” said Mike Metcalf, Moore County Schools’ deputy superintendent.

“In addition, we continue to exceed the state proficiency. It is clear that the work of our teachers and staff are moving us in a very positive direction.”

Moore County Schools’ overall proficiency rate came in above the statewide rate of 53.6 percent.

School grades and district-level proficiency rates are based on standardized end-of-grade tests in reading and math administered to students in grades three through eight; fifth- and eighth-grade science.

The state uses students’ scores on those tests to determine whether they’ve mastered those subjects adequately for their grade level.

The proportion of students performing on grade level is the biggest factor in schools’ performance grades. Student growth from the previous year also factors in for 20 percent.

Of the 22 schools in the district, three exceeded expected student growth: Sandhills Farm Life, McDeeds Creek and Pinehurst Elementary.

Of the others, 13 showed growth as predicted, and six did not meet expected growth: Aberdeen, Robbins, Crain’s Creek, Cameron, Pinecrest and Union Pines. 

Based on this year’s testing, Moore County now has four schools considered by the state to be low performing. Schools rated “D” or “F” are automatically classified that way unless they exceed expected growth. 

Cameron, Westmoore and Southern Pines lost that status with the improvement in their performance grades this year.

With four “D” and two “F” rated schools last year, the district had five low-performing schools. Elise Middle came off of that list last year after exceeding expected growth in 2021-2022, but will return to it this year. 

The state sets two standards for student achievement. Students who score a Level 3 or above on end-of-grade tests are considered to be “proficient,” or working on grade level. Those who score a Level 4 or 5 are considered to be on track to graduate prepared to go to college or start a career.

Districtwide, 41 percent of Moore County Schools students tested above grade level this past spring.

Proficiency and college-readiness rates were highest at McDeeds Creek Elementary, where more than 60 percent of students tested above grade level in reading and math. The vast majority — 86 percent — of its students performed on grade level in math, as did 77 percent in reading.

High schools are graded on a wider set of tests, including student performance on end-of-course state tests in English, biology and math, as well as student scores on the ACT college entrance examination and graduation rates.

In the last school year, 46.4 percent of Moore County Schools’ high school juniors scored an ACT composite of 19 or higher — the minimum required for admission to UNC system schools.

Pinecrest and Union Pines both had just over 51 percent of students score at that level, as did 36 percent of students at Connect Virtual Academy and 19 percent at North Moore.

On state tests, 61.5 percent of Pinecrest students, 58.2 percent of Union Pines students, 50.9 percent of North Moore students and 45.7 percent of Connect students performed on grade level.

Charter school students take the same state tests as administered in traditional public schools, and are graded based on the same criteria.

Of Moore County’s three charter schools, The Academy of Moore County and Sandhills Theatre Arts Renaissance School maintained their “B” grades from last year.

Moore Montessori Community School earned a “C” after being rated “D” the previous year. The K-6 school in Southern Pines was graded for the first time in 2021.

Moore Montessori and The Academy of Moore, a K-5 charter in Aberdeen, both met expected growth last year, while STARS in Vass exceeded it.

Contact Mary Kate Murphy at (910) 693-2479 or