CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The grades for North Carolina's public and charter schools are in. Every year, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction calculates a letter grade for each school in the state. 

The letter grades compare things like student test scores, school demographics, and graduation rates. 

Wednesday, officials with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced their grades for the 2018-19 school year, revealing not only how CMS schools stack-up to others across the state, but also how much the district improved over the previous school year.

“I won’t sugar coat this, but we have some hard work ahead,” said new CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.

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Winston explained Wednesday that the takeaway from the grades for the 2018-19 school year is that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools saw overall results on state tests stay essentially flat, with advances in college- and career-ready science scores, and declines in elementary and middle school literacy scores.

Winston, a parent of two CMS students himself, now at the helm of the district, says he hopes to bring a new sense of urgency to improving those scores and improving learning for all.

“We’re not content with where we are. There is work to be done, but we believe we’re on the right path to do that work,” he said. “There are little ones and they don’t get a second chance and so we’ve got to do right by all of our students in the moment."

The grades, however, weren’t all bad. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School says overall graduation rates went up, as did college and career readiness scores for several subgroups. 

CMS says economically disadvantaged students showed a gain of 2 points, black students 1.8 points and students with disabilities 1 point.

Report cards for individual schools also released today. Nearly 72 percent of schools met or exceeded growth expectations, and 73 percent received a school performance grade of A, B or C. 

CMS had 17 A schools, 53 B schools, 55 C schools, 39 D schools and 7 F schools.

Two-thirds of schools (65 percent) maintained their school performance grades from 2017-2018, and 31 schools (19 percent) improved from last year.

Wednesday, the new Superintendent urged parents not to only judge a school by its letter grade, saying while important, letter grades do not account for things like good teachers, extracurricular activities or sports.

“It has its place, but it’s not the end-all-be-all to making that decision, so come visit a school, talk with administrators, talk with teachers, see how they interact with students,” he said.

Brian Kingsley, chief academic officer for CMS, echoed that sentiment inviting parents to first visit the school. 

“Our students are our greatest true tellers in terms of what their day-to-day student experience is like, and I think once we drill down to what that is, people can make an informed decision,” said Kingsley.

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