Numbers game keeping some from reaching goals
By Sarah Nagem
School principals face the same reality every year: each subgroup of students, broken up into categories like race and English language proficiency, must meet federal testing standards.
If one subgroup fails, the whole school fails.
Students with disabilities are held to the same standards.
But a subgroup must have at least 40 students for the results to be counted toward a school’s Adequate Yearly Progress, a complicated accountability system laid out in the No Child Left Behind legislation.
Last school year, none of the six high schools in the Rowan-Salisbury School System reached the 40-student mark in the “students with disabilities” category.
That doesn’t mean the high schools didn’t have at least 40 students with special needs. It means fewer than 40 were scheduled to take the Algebra I and English I tests.
So those students’ results didn’t affect individual schools’ AYP results, says Dr. Rebecca Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum.
But the scores did count systemwide, she says.
Henry Kluttz, principal at Carson High School, knows the frustrations of a complex testing system.
Carson met 12 of its 13 AYP goals last school year. But Kluttz said if it hadn’t been for a record-keeping error, his school would have met all its goals, thereby reaching the coveted Adequate Yearly Progress title.
He says the error left six students who should have been placed in the “economically disadvantaged” subgroup out of the mix.
The mistake meant the school didn’t reach its target goal of the percentage of economically disadvantaged students who took the math test.
Those six students would have pushed the subgroup over the target mark, Kluttz says.
“It was a clerical error,” he says.