State schools get waiver on No Child Left Behind requirements
By Sarah Campbell
North Carolina schools will no longer have to measure student accountability under an all-or-nothing measure known as Adequate Yearly Progress.
The elimination of the model, which falls under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, comes as the state receives a flexibility waiver for key provisions of the law.
That also means the end of school choice, which has allowed students who are enrolled at schools failing to meet AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years to transfer to a higher performing school.
Title I funds that are currently being allocated to provide transportation for school choice will now be funneled back to the schools that will no longer carry school improvement status. Those funds will provide additional support staff and services.
“This flexibility will allow us some leeway in terms of how we use our Title I funds in how we meet the needs of those schools,” said Alesia Burnette, director of Title I for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
The district has seven elementary schools in school improvement status: China Grove, Granite Quarry, Hurley, Knollwood, Landis, Mount Ulla and North Rowan.
Forest Park Elementary and Kannapolis Intermediate hold the status in the Kannapolis City school system. But Patty Williams, the district’s director of Title I, said no students have requested a transfer.
Burnette said students who have switched schools under school choice provisions can continue attending their chosen schools, but parents will become responsible for transportation.
“The majority of our families are already transporting their own children right now, so that won’t make a big impact,” Burnette said.
Ambitious but achievable goals
Williams said as the state ditches the AYP accountability model, which required a 100 percent proficiency target for every group of students, it has set new “ambitious but achievable” Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO).
The new standards call for the reduction, by half, in the number of non-proficient students in reading and math within six years.
“Targets will be set by subgroups to allow each to progress on their own trajectory,” Williams said.
Subgroups include the school as a whole, racial categories, economically disadvantaged students, students with limited English proficiency and children with disabilities.
Under the old model, schools with diverse populations had more subgroups and therefore had to meet a higher number of AYP goals.
A press release from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction said that unfairly labeled schools and ensured that most schools would eventually be dubbed failing.
“As a result, information provided through the AYP calculations became less useful and informative, the provisions for public school choice became unworkable and requirements for providing supplemental educational services did not necessarily reach the students needing this intervention the most,” the release states.
Williams said the elimination of such labels is good news for schools across the state.
“Educators work very hard for the benefit of all of our children,” she said. “However, it is an unfair assumption that a child with an IEP (Individualized Learning Plan), already identified with learning difficulties, would perform at the same level as a child without a learning disability.
“Now, all children will be judged based on their own growth trajectory rather than an antiquated proficiency rating.
Burnette agrees that the new standards are a positive change.
“They will hold schools accountable, but also give them credit for making progress,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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