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Grissom column: Making sense of school ABCs and AYPs

It’s that time of year again ó release of test scores for schools across North Carolina. Since the addition of No Child Left Behind legislation, it has become very confusing to the public as to how a school system could have such differences in accountability results between two very different models ó the No Child Left Behind federal model of Adequate Yearly Progress and the state model of student growth called the ABCs. Both models are complex means of measuring academic achievement of students and address different areas and have different emphasis.
Under No Child Left Behind, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is based on the following:
– Performance of students in grades 3-8 on the end-of-grade reading and math tests
– Students in grade 10 on English I, algebra I, and 10th grade writing assessment tests
– Participation rate in testing
– Attendance in grades 3-8
– Graduation rates at the high school level.
Within these performance levels, there are sub-groups, and each sub-group must meet certain percentages of proficiency on the tests, as established by the federal government. These percentages or targets increase every three years until 2013-2014 when every student in every group is expected to be proficient. This past school year was one of the three years for an increase in targets.
We have these sub-groups:
– All students
– Asian
– Black
– Hispanic
– Multiracial
– White
– Economically disadvantaged
– Limited English proficient
– Students with disabilities
For a school to meet AYP, all designated subgroups in the district must meet the same AYP targets, regardless of disabilities or language spoken. If only one group fails to meet the targets, the entire school is designated as not meeting AYP. Schools that are more diverse and have more targets have greater difficulty in meeting AYP goals.
As the target increases and tests are re-normed, it becomes more and more difficult for each sub-group to make AYP. Only 37.7 percent of schools in North Carolina met the AYP goals this year. In six school systems, no schools met AYP. The number of schools not meeting AYP targets will only increase with the revising and re-norming of the reading test.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System continues to struggle, along with most other school systems, in meeting targets for certain sub-groups.
This year our school system showed excellent results on the ABCs in math, which is a state standard based on student growth, a second model for accountability. The state establishes a benchmark that students are expected to reach; teachers and schools are then recognized if the students show more growth than expected.Twenty-eight of our 34 schools met the expected growth and 19 of our schools exceeded or made high growth.
Reading scores will not be counted as part of the ABCs this year because the state has re-written the test to make it more difficult and re-normed the scores. No comparison to previous years’ scores can be made.
The constant change is frustrating. Students and teachers work hard to move the test scores to the 90 percent proficiency level to only turn around and be back at 60 percent or 70 percent due to re-norming and starting the climb all over again.
There is also a disconnect between the release of new curriculum and when the testing of the new curriculum takes place. The test results provide a school system with little or no information that is helpful in making improvements.
Many school systems have either developed or purchased some type of benchmarking or formative assessment to be administered throughout the year as an indication of progress. The Department of Education does not provide this type of measure, so there is very little alignment or consistency among school districts. This past school year, progress monitoring assessments began in the elementary and middle schools.
In spite of these challenges, the Rowan-Salisbury School System is committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure our students perform to the best of their abilities.
We have many exciting initiatives and programs that will not directly be judged on a test, but will ultimately result in more students staying in school and being prepared for the 21st century. Information on the many great things that students and staff are doing in our school system can be accessed through the school system’s Web site, www.rss.k12.nc.us. Please check it out.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System continues to have a strong, dedicated and caring School Board. We have some of the hardest-working staff members I have ever seen. We have a focus and a direction through our District Improvement Plan and individual School Improvement Plans. We have excellent community support and partnerships. We are proud of the progress that is being made in the school system each year.
– – –
Dr. Judy Grissom is superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

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