By the numbers: NC 19th in national school system ranking

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RALEIGH — North Carolina has broken into the top 20 of WalletHub’s annual ranking of the best and worst school systems in the United States.N.C. comes in at 19th in the nation for 2016 — an improvement from 37th in 2014 — based on WalletHub’s composite scoring of 17 key metrics — including areas such as student teacher ratios, average SAT and ACT scores, as well as dropout rates — with an overall total score of 54.57. The national average total score is 50.85, ranging from top-ranked Massachusetts at 73.65 to No. 51 Louisiana at 30.33.North Carolina ranks the highest in the country for ACT and/or SAT completion rates of high school graduates, at nearly 164 percent, meaning more than half of graduates take both tests. N.C. is currently tied with Mississippi for having the second-lowest ACT scores in the country, with an average score of 19 (out of 36).Catherine Truitt, Gov. McCrory’s senior education policy adviser, attributes the low-ranking latter metric to a difference in educational requirements from state to state.”We are one of 11 states that requires all kids to take the ACT,” Truitt said. “So we are being compared, when you look at those rankings … to states that don’t require kids to take the ACTs.””It’s not surprising to me that we’ve moved up so high in the rankings from all the work that’s been done in the last couple of years,” Truitt said. “We’ve really made strategic investments in teacher pay and digital learning in particular, and also in reducing class size and putting reading coaches in those early primary grades, K-3, to help fourth grade reading scores continue to rise.”A WalletHub representative noted 2016 featured revamped methodology and did not advise a direct comparison between the two rankings.”We strive to better our methodology whenever we can. This year, academic experts weighted in on some areas that would benefit our study and make our numbers even more telling,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. “Thus, we newly included the high school graduation rates for low income students, and North Carolina ranked quite well, 15th with a graduation rate of 78 percent.”We also analyzed the percentage of public elementary and secondary school teachers who met licensing/certification requirements — 98 percent in North Carolina. When it comes to safety we decided to also look at the rate of discipline incidents per 100,000 students. Note that, of course, where North Carolina falls in the overall rankings also depends on the other states’ rankings.”A few metrics were carried over from the 2014 study that played a role in the 2016 results that N.C. has seen progress in. For example, North Carolina Improved its high school dropout rate from 20 percent to 16.1 percent in the last two years, and has the third-lowest rate of bullying incidents in the country, reducing bullying incidents on school property from 19 percent in 2014/15 to 15.6 percent in 2016.Of further areas to improve, Truitt noted, “I think that we will start to see things go up, because there is more of an emphasis now with those standards with reading nonfiction texts, which is really what is tested on the standardized exams,” she said. “The same with the critical thinking skills and math … I am hopeful that that is going to start making a dent in our standardized test scores on the high school level.”