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Only 10 Rowan schools pass on latest federal testing report

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
Fewer than half of Rowan-Salisbury schools met preliminary federal testing requirements in the 2007-2008 school year.
Ten of the system’s 34 schools met standards set out by No Child Left Behind, according to recently released data. All 10 of those are elementary schools.
The results are based on students’ math scores in grades three through eight and Algebra I, English I and writing scores in high school.
Federal requirements were tougher in the latest school year. At least 77.2 percent of elementary and middle school students had to pass the math test for schools to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress standard set by federal law.
The year before, only 65.8 percent had to pass to make adequate yearly progress.
High school reading and math requirements also got tougher, said Colby Cochran, director of assessment and accountability services for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
Elementary and middle school reading scores will be released in the fall, and more schools could face penalties then.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said she wasn’t surprised that so few schools met federal requirements in the latest school year ó not because of student ability but because of the testing standards.
“Every three years, the benchmarks increase. So it’s like trying to hit a moving target,” she said.
Most elementary and middle schools improved their math scores in the past school year ó compared to the 2006-2007 school year. But it wasn’t enough for most schools. Ten elementary schools did not meet federal standards based on the math test. None of the school system’s seven middle schools met the standards.
Neither did any of the school system’s seven high schools.
Test results are broken into student subgroups, like race, income level and English proficiency. If students in one subgroup within a school fail to test proficient, the whole school fails.
That can be an extra challenge at some schools, which have a lot of subgroups, said Alesia Burnette, director of school improvement and Title I.
All but one of Rowan-Salisbury’s elementary schools receive federal Title I funds, which has to do with the number of low-income students. Faith Elementary is the exception.
“They’re very high standards,” Burnette said of the testing requirements.Meeting those standards doesn’t mean much for schools that don’t get Title I money. But based on the math results, more local Title I schools will face federal scrutiny and ultimately could lose their Title I money.
Burnette said the following elementary schools will face sanctions based on the new scores: Elizabeth Koontz, Knollwood, Millbridge and Rockwell.
What the penalties will mean for students at those Title I schools is still not clear, Burnette said.
In the past, under No Child Left Behind legislation, schools that failed to meet standards two years in a row had to offer parents the chance to send their kids to a better-performing school.
After three years of falling short, schools had to offer tutoring services provided by an outside agency.
Now talks are taking place about the possibility of schools offering tutoring services before the transfer option, Burnette said.
Based on math results, China Grove, Granite Quarry, Hurley and North Rowan elementary schools will offer parents the choice of sending their kids elsewhere, she said.
Shive Elementary, system’s newest elementary school, went on the watch list in its first year of testing.
Despite some grim numbers, Burnette said some schools made significant progress. Bostian, Morgan, Mount Ulla and Overton elementary schools will be removed from the federal watchlist based on their math scores.
No Child Left Behind standards have been controversial since they began. Grissom called the requirements “unrealistic,” especially since special needs students and students who don’t speak English must meet the same standards as other children.
“The students can and will make progress but not always at the same speed,” Grissom said.
She expects fewer schools to meet the standards after reading test results are released. That test has undergone changes.
Surrounding school systems also seem plagued by tougher test requirements.
Only three of eight schools in Kannapolis City Schools met the standards.
In the Cabarrus County school system, less than 20 percent of schools tested well enough.
Iredell-Statesville Schools did better. Nearly 58 percent of schools in that system met the standards.
In Rowan-Salisbury schools, officials said progress still needs to be made.
“We realize we have work to do,” Burnette said.

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