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School principal vows students will meet testing guidelines

By Shelley Smith

Salisbury Post

GRANITE QUARRY — The principal of Granite Quarry Elementary School promised — no ifs, ands or buts — Monday night that her students will meet federal testing guidelines this school year.

“We will make our goals at the end of this year,” Mary Ann Karriker asserted at a meeting of the town’s Board of Alderman.

Granite Quarry Mayor Mary Ponds told Karriker she was impressed by her choice of verbs — not that she “hopes” or “will try” to make the goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In her presentation to the Board of Aldermen, Karriker explained the No Child Left Behind law and her own school’s progress, the school system’s progress and how the community can help.

As people were waiting for the meeting to begin, regulars at the monthly meeting observed that Karriker had gotten a good response when she invited the public to the discussion.

Ponds was elated at the turnout and walked around greeting everyone at their seat.

More than 35 people attended the meeting. Many parents, students, community members, Boy Scouts, Rowan-Salisbury School System staff and county commissioners came to show support and to learn more about the laws and how they can help.

“We are glad to see the students are here,” Karriker said as she began.

She gave a PowerPoint presentation provided by the school system titled “Understanding AYP.” AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress and serves as the goal each public school — and subgroups of students in those schools — throughout the U.S.

Adequate Yearly Progress is based on student performance on end-of-grade tests and writing exams. At the elementary level, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders take reading and math tests at the end of the school year.

If even one subgroup of students fails to meet its Adequate Yearly Progress target, the entire school fails to meet its target. Likewise, the school district must see that systemwide student subgroups meet their own targets.

Karriker likened the Adequate Yearly Progress targets to hurdles in a race. A school district can have dozens of targets or hurdles, and the goal for each student group increases every three years until every student scores 100 percent in math and reading.

Parents have the option of removing a child from their current school if that school does not meet make adequate yearly progress. Two years ago, a few parents opted to transfer away from Granite Quarry, Karriker said, but this past year, she has seen students coming back to Granite Quarry or choosing not to transfer.

Granite Quarry Elementary is not the only Rowan-Salisbury school failing to meet federal guidelines in previous years, and it’s not the only school asking for help, Karriker explained.

Of the 115 school districts in North Carolina, only three cleared all Adequate Yearly Progress hurdles last year. Rowan-Salisbury is one of 11 school districts to receive state assistance teams that will evaluate the needs of individual schools and recommend ways to help them meet the federal goals.

Granite Quarry Elementary has two full-time literacy coaches who have received special training from the state. These coaches work with teachers, assistants and tutors at the school to help every child pass grade-level tests.

With all of this extra assistance, Granite Quarry still needs help, Karriker said, as do many schools within the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

Granite Quarry Elementary needs tutors to come to the school and help the students; some community members and parents at Monday night’s meeting seemed interested in helping and offered a few of their own ideas.

One parent suggested forming a group to go to students’ houses — with their parents or guardians present and — and read with students. She pointed out that even though students get homework, such as reading with a parent, they are not always doing that work, causing them to fall behind in school.

Granite Quarry Elementary is having a Career Day for fourth- and fifth-graders in March, and more than 20 employers and businesses have promised to participate. Karriker believes this will motivate students to stay in school and strive to succeed.

School officials are asking anyone interesting in becoming a mentor or tutor to attend a training program tonight sponsored by the Communities in Schools organization.

The training session takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Hurley Room of Rowan Public Library, on Fisher Street in downtown Salisbury.

Anyone who can’t attend today’s session can call Granite Quarry Elementary at 704-279-2154 for more information.

Contact Shelley Smith at 704-797-4265 or intern@salisburypost.com.

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