School districts work on improving AYP standings
by Jon Gargis
Oct 24, 2010 | 2300 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officials in schools across the county continue to work on improving students' achievement in the classroom following the release of updated Adequate Yearly Progress statistics.

AYP is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Earlier this month, the Georgia Department of Education released updated 2009-2010 AYP results that took into account summer retest scores, summer graduates and appeals.

The updated results led to three schools in the Bartow County School System -- Woodland High School and Adairsville and Cass middle schools -- joining South Central Middle and all 12 of the system's elementary schools on the list of those making AYP. John Barge, director of secondary curriculum for Bartow County Schools, said graduation test retests led to Woodland High meeting its marks, while the other two schools made it after some data corrections.

"Basically, it was just cleaning up data that the state had students recorded incorrectly, and when we cleaned up that data, then those two middle schools are actually making AYP. In some cases, students were inaccurately recorded into subgroups when they weren't part of that subgroup," Barge said. "That's the importance of checking data."

AYP consists of three parts -- test participation, academic achievement and another statistic, called a "second indicator." The academic goals continue to rise every few years toward a goal of 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014. This year, the academic goal for grades three through eight increased in mathematics and the graduation rate bar went up.

All students and any qualifying subgroup of students must meet achievement goals. Student subgroups include white, Hispanic, black students and other racial subgroups; as well as students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Schools that have too few students in a subgroup do not have the subgroup's scores factored into the AYP calculations.

Statewide, more than 77 percent of schools made AYP, compared to the 71-plus percent number included in this summer's initial results. But the increased number was still below the previous year's 79 percent rate.

Remaining on the list of schools that did not make AYP were three county schools -- Woodland Middle School, Adairsville and Cass high schools. In Cartersville City Schools, AYP remained out of the grasp of Cartersville Elementary and Cartersville High. Cartersville Primary and Cartersville Middle remained the two schools in the city district that met all academic benchmarks.

"I was hoping we'd get Adairsville [High] across the hurdle," Barge said. "I think Adairsville just barely missed it by like one or two students after the retests. They were very, very close -- our retests just weren't quite strong enough."

Peggy Cowan, director of director of Curriculum and Professional Learning for Cartersville City Schools, said despite two of the district's four schools not making AYP, the report did give the schools some reasons to celebrate.

"I think, in general, all of our students did extremely well," Cowan said. "Just because we had two subgroups that failed to meet AYP does not mean this is not a wonderful system. In fact, we are really celebrating a lot of what happened -- we had so many more students, a high percentage of students, increase in the advanced section, the exceeds [standards] category. In many cases, over half the students were in the exceeds category, so we're obviously really doing a lot of things well, and we're going to continue to do that.

"We recognize that at the elementary level, our students with disabilities in math need to have an increased intervention, and Kathy Anderson, who is our special ed. director, is the one that's working closely with that," she added. "And then at the high school, it was our African-American population in math, and we knew that was going to be an issue, and the retake would not help that."

Cartersville High did not reach AYP because not enough of its black students met benchmarks on the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests; the school would have made AYP under the "Safe Harbor" benchmark related to that test had those students shown a higher graduation rate.

"There was no way that the retake could help that because there weren't enough students that fell below the 500 mark that we could get to come back to retest to change that rating," Cowan said. "Most of the students fell within the 500 and 515 scale score mark, which is passing by the state but does not fall within that Adequate Yearly Progress range ... our students were invited to come back even if they passed the test to take it again if they fell within that 500 and 515 range, and those students elected not to do so."

Cowan said Cartersville Elementary missed the AYP mark by one or two students, while the high school needed four or five more to reach its goals.

Cass High's results put the school in "Needs Improvement" status, which requires them to offer either public school choice or supplemental education services. Schools that do not meet AYP in the same subject for two or more consecutive years are placed in Needs Improvement status with escalating consequences for each successive year.

Avis King, director of School Improvement for Bartow County Schools, said Cass already offers tutoring through Instructional Extension money provided by the state; at-risk students have the opportunity to attend after-school tutoring and credit recovery through those funds. The district cannot currently offer school choice since there are no available high school student slots outside of Cass.

King added that Cass will offer additional tutoring as part of supplemental education services next year if it remains in Needs Improvement status.

Keeping Cass High from making AYP were the pass rates of all students and the economically disadvantaged subgroup on the math section of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests. The school's senior class also did not meet the 80 percent graduation rate benchmark.

Though this is the second consecutive year Cartersville high school did not make AYP, the areas that kept the school from making it were not the same as they were the previous year, so it is not in Needs Improvement status.

Adairsville High came up short in the English Language Arts portion of the GHSGT, as not enough students in the economically disadvantaged subgroup passed the exam.

While high schools must meet state-set goals on the GHSGT to meet the academic achievement component of AYP, the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests are used to measure achievement in elementary and middle schools.

The pass rates of their students with disabilities subgroups kept Cartersville Elementary and Woodland Middle from making AYP. In the former, it was scores on the math section of the CRCT; the latter, the math and ELA portions of the battery of tests.

Barge said each of his district's schools is addressing the needs of its student populations to improve their AYP standing next year.

"Each school has its own school improvement plan where they have targeted specifically some resources in the areas of students with disabilities and/or economically disadvantaged students to ensure they are doing everything they can to make sure those kids get across that hurdle," he said. "When you get down to this level, it's individualizing for each student and what their needs are."

Addressing Cartersville High's results, Cowan said the school will continue with some of the efforts it has put forth in the past.

"With the high school, we're going to continue what we did last year, which was highly successful -- offering additional tutorial services, offering some intervention classes and math support classes to ensure that all of the students have mastered the skills," she said. "We're giving benchmark assessments throughout the year so the 11th-grader from the beginning of the year until the time he or she takes the March graduation tests can measure their progress in terms of how they would do on the tests, and then they can then seek intervention as they see as needed, or we can counsel them in terms of the intervention we think they need.

"Had we not let second-year 10th-graders take the test last March, all of our subgroups would have made AYP in math, and we were using those interventions last year, they were highly successful, so we're going to continue to do that," she added.

Though both districts' results showed schools that remained among those that did not make AYP, adding to the brighter spots in the data was the fact that all four local high schools showed slight improvement on their graduation rates over the initial results this summer. See Monday's edition of The Daily Tribune News for further coverage.