FAQ: County Attainment Profiles

Who made the 100 County Attainment Profiles?

These County Attainment Profiles were created by myFutureNC and Carolina Demography to highlight county-level educational attainment and key education and workforce performance metrics.

What is the purpose of the County Attainment Profiles?

County leaders can use these profiles to help facilitate conversations and decision-making on local priorities aimed at increasing education levels. Each County Attainment Profile contains specific “opportunities for growth” uniquely identified for your county.

What data are you using?

The County Attainment Profiles contain 57 indicators from 13 different state and federal data providers. Some indicators are direct downloads from data providers; some indicators were provided by special request; and other indicators were derived by Carolina Demography. Full documentation of data sources and methods is available here.

How can I learn more about the data presented here?

To learn more about the data, go to the individual indicator pages on the myFutureNC website. First, navigate to the page listing all performance indicators, then click the “Explore indicator details” link for the indicator of interest. Each detailed indicator page has a section with additional resources and websites that users can access. Additionally, you can visit the myFutureNC County Data and Resources page and scroll to the “Data and Engagement Toolkit” section. There, you will find a detailed data guidance documents and downloadable CSV files of the Attainment Dashboard data and the County Attainment Profile data. Finally, to find detailed definitions of the terms used to define and describe indicators, please visit the Glossary.

How can I find out about future updates?

Sign up here to receive MFNC Newsletter and other updates

How frequently will the County Attainment Profiles be updated?

The County Attainment Profiles will be updated annually. It is important to note, however, that COVID-19 will impact data updates for the next few years; these impacts are discussed in detail in the next section.

How will COVID-19 impact data updates?

The disruptions associated with the coronavirus pandemic will influence the data collected and metrics reported in the myFutureNC Attainment Dashboard  and County Attainment Profiles. There are four main types of impact due to COVID-19:

  1. No data updates available for 2020

    Updates of many metrics derived from the NC Department of Public Instruction will not be available this year due to federal testing waivers.

  2. Immediate impact: 2020 data release for 2019-2020 will be impacted by COVID-19

    Indicators calculated with 2019-2020 school year data may differ substantially from other years because of the impacts of COVID-19. We will update this data, but it is important to recognize that it may not be fully comparable to previous or subsequent years. For example, the AP Participation Rate show in the County Attainment Profile may decrease due to changes in how AP tests will be administered in 2020.

  3. Delayed impact: 2020 data will not be released until 1-2 years from now

    Most of the indicators reported on the state attainment dashboard and the county profiles are reported one to two years after they are collected. Consequently, any impacts of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 will not be seen until data releases in 2021 and 2022. These indicators include postsecondary enrollments and economic outcomes.
    Many county economic indicators, such as the labor force participation rate, disconnected youth, and family-sustaining wage rate, are drawn from the 5-Year American Community Survey (ACS). This means that there are five years of rolling data used in each year’s update: 2020 data will first be included in the 2016-2020 5-Year ACS scheduled for release in December 2021 through the 2020-2024 5-Year ACS scheduled for release in December 2025.

  4. No clear impact anticipated

    There are a few indicators that we do not anticipate being significantly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic in the near future, though we will evaluate new releases for any impact. These include:

myFutureNC and Carolina Demography will continue to work with state and local leaders as data is released to identify the best way to update and communicate findings.

Is the most recent year of data used for the County Attainment Profile indicators all from the same year?

No. The County Attainment Profile uses different data sources for each indicator and the most recent year in which that data was released differs. For example, the information on disconnected youth is from the 5-Year 2018 American Community Survey, whereas the NC Pre-K indicator was updated using 2018-19 school year data. The most recent year of data reflected on the dashboard depends on the source and release schedule. To find the year the data was released, see this County Attainment Profile documentation.

What is a Prosperity Zone sub-region?

The State of North Carolina operates eight administrative regions known as Prosperity Zones. Each Zone features a one-stop, physical location, providing citizens and businesses the ability to interact with representatives from multiple state agencies, as well as to encourage better collaboration between the agencies themselves.

A Prosperity Zone sub-region is a group of counties that represents a more detailed geography than an entire Prosperity Zone. These sub-regions align with existing commuting patterns and represent the smallest geography for which NC Commerce produces occupational projections.

How were peer counties identified?

The peer county definition was based on ongoing conversations with The Rural Center about how to best classify counties for comparison. We adopted their recommended definition, based on the following classifications:

How should I interpret population projections for 2030?

Population projections through 2030 were produced by the State Demographer at the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management. These projections are based on the extrapolation of past trends in county population growth and the demographic components of change: births, deaths, and migration. These models account for county-specific variation by age, sex, race, and ethnicity.

Projections are not prophecy; instead, they should be seen as one potential future, based on a continuation of recent historical trends. Communities can work to plan for or try to change projected futures, whether that is by implementing mechanisms to slow down growth or pursuing economic development opportunities to encourage new growth to occur. This article from the Population Reference Bureau provides additional information on understanding and using population projections.

Does the information in this profile include charter school students?

Currently, outcomes for K-12 students presented in the main body of the profile are limited to students in the traditional public schools (Local Education Agencies) and does not include charter student outcomes. We are evaluating the best ways to incorporate this information in future versions of the profiles.

Build the Foundation

What does “low-performing school” mean?

Low-Performing Districts and Schools in North Carolina are defined by the NC General Assembly and are based on the School Performance Grade and EVAAS growth.

“Low-performing schools are those that receive a school performance grade of D or F and a school growth score of “met expected growth” or “not met expected growth” as defined by G.S. 115C-83.15.” (G.S. 115C-105.37(a)), and

“A Low-performing local school administrative unit is a unit in which the majority of the schools in that unit that received a school performance grade and school growth score as provided in G.S. 115C-83.15 have been identified as low-performing schools, as provided in G.S. 115C-105.37.” (G.S. 115C-105.39A(a)).

One of the requirements of the law is the development of a school or district plan for improvement that specifically addresses the strategies the school or district will implement to improve both the School Performance Grade and School Growth designation. These final plans are shared with the public, including parents, guardians, and staff.  Plans are made available through the local district website and the NCDPI website. More information on school or district improvement plans can be found on the NCDPI webpage.

What does “met or exceeded growth” mean?

Student growth is the amount of academic progress that students make over the course of a grade or class. Students enter grades and course at different places; some have struggled while some have excelled. Regardless of how they enter a grade or course, students can make progress over the course of the school year.

Opportunities for Growth

How were Opportunities for Growth identified?

Opportunities for growth were identified by examining county performance on specific indicators relative to its peers (e.g., rural non-metro, rural metro, suburban, and urban). The three largest gaps between the county and peer county average performance were used to identify opportunities for growth. If a county did not have three opportunity areas based on this evaluation, its performance was then compared to the state. If a county still did not have three opportunity areas, performance was then compared to the myFutureNC attainment goals for indicators with statewide goals.

All 100 counties have three opportunities for growth.

Postsecondary Institutions

My community college serves this county, why isn’t it included in this list? / What about satellite campuses?

Our list of institutional locations and details on enrollments and student outcomes is derived from data provided by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics. The data on institutional location provided in their directory is limited to main campus locations.

The list of postsecondary institutions is limited to the institutions physically located within the county’s Prosperity Zone sub-region. In some instances, community college service areas overlap Prosperity Zone sub-region boundaries. In these cases, community colleges that serve these counties may not be listed in the postsecondary institutions table.

Why are you using an 8-year graduation/transfer rate?

The 8-year graduation or transfer out rate is part of a relatively new data series from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) called the Outcome Measures. Traditional metrics to understand student graduation outcomes were limited to first-time, full-time Fall enrollments, a measure that typically captured less than half of the students who began at community colleges. Traditional measures also focus just on graduation and do not include transfers.

The Outcome Measures improve upon this by capturing the 8-year outcomes of all students: first-time and non-first-time, full-time and part-time, and Fall enrollments as well as Spring and Summer enrollments. We use the 8-year Outcome Measures because this is the only measure that includes data on both graduation and transfer out.