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[NEWS] Lighting A Spark


Durham Public Schools improved its academic performance in 2017-18 with DPS students making their highest gains in grade level proficiency in five years. More schools earned higher grades, and fewer schools were labeled as “low-performing” under the state’s accountability structure, in a year that welcomed a new superintendent and significant changes in school and district leadership.

“The constant last year was our excellent teachers and staff,” said DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga, who started at DPS in late November. “What changed was that we had the opportunity to fill a number of vacancies among principals and central administrators, enabling us to set a tone at the top: higher expectations, greater support for educators, more accountability for results, and celebration of our successes.”

“In addition to our leadership changes, we spent much of the school year developing the superintendent’s Strategic Plan for the next five years,” said DPS Deputy Superintendent Nakia Hardy. “It’s outstanding that our teachers and principals achieved so much before we’ve even had a chance to begin implementing that plan. We’re excited for what’s coming next.”

“These results reflect years of hard work by our teachers and staff. They have never wavered in their quest to help our students accomplish their dreams,” said Mike Lee, chair of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. “It’s clear that our new administration’s focus on data, equity, and student achievement is paying off. We see even more growth and success lying ahead.”

Fanning the flames: Immediate improvement in 2017-18

The number of DPS schools earning an “A,” “B,” or “C” School Performance Grade rose to 32 from 27, while the total number of schools receiving a “low-performing” designation from the state declined by three. Schools that exited “low-performing” status, either through higher overall school performance or faster year-to-year academic growth, included:

• Bethesda Elementary

• Club Boulevard Elementary

• Hope Valley Elementary

• Oak Grove Elementary

• Sandy Ridge Elementary

• W.G. Pearson Elementary

• Neal Middle

• Southern School of Energy and Sustainability

The number of schools meeting or exceeding growth expectations—their students making a year’s worth of academic progress during the school year—continued to increase this year to 76 from 75 percent of schools. The number of schools exceeding growth expectations rose to 20 from 17.

Core academic scores all improved for elementary and middle school students, with reading proficiency increasing by 1.3 percentage points, science increasing by 3.3 points, and math making the highest gains with 3.6 points. Across the board, grade level proficiency increased by 1.9 percentage points, a five-year high, while college and career readiness continued its steady march forward with a 1.2 percentage point gain.

“Igniting Limitless Potential”: Looking ahead

With the district’s leadership team in place, Durham Public Schools turns its attention to implementing its five-year Strategic Plan, adopted with the support of 52 community leaders and educators, to further accelerate its progress.

“Durham Public Schools has made steady improvement in recent years, but I’m glad to see we were able to pick up the pace,” said Dr. Mubenga. “Alignment to a Strategic Plan will help us move much faster: it will enable us to maintain our focus and work together toward common priorities and goals.

“Our Strategic Planning Committee articulated a vision of Durham Public Schools ‘igniting limitless potential’ within our students. With our teachers leading the way, our Strategic Plan guiding us, and our community supporting us, the next five years will be even better for DPS.”