01/19/07 — State takes look at reading progress

View Archive

State takes look at reading progress

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 19, 2007 1:50 PM

A state assistance team is in Wayne County after the county's school district was placed under "district improvement" status when state officials determined the school had not made enough progress in reading scores for the past three years.

Letters were to be sent home to parents today from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction about the situation, officials said.

According to the letter, the school system's failure to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, in reading for the past three years, prompted the state to enter "Year One of the Corrective Action Phase of District Improvement."

Translated into English, Spanish and Chinese, the notification of the state's action also explained the Title I district improvement under the federal mandate No Child Left Behind. Title I is a federal program that provides funding for schools to help students who are behind academically or at risk of falling behind.

The findings are based on the 2005-06 test results. While individually 11 schools out of 31, or 35.5 percent, made AYP, the results that prompted the latest action concern the district as a whole.

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability and student services, said the school system met 54 of its 62 AYP goals, which equates to 87.1 percent.

But under No Child Left Behind, McFadden said, it is a simple pass-fail system. If the school system misses even one AYP goal, the school system does not make AYP.

"The community needs to be informed that all students are required to be assessed, regardless of any mental or physical disabilities. Every test score is factored into a school system's test scores and that can impact whether a school system makes AYP," he said.

Of the eight goals Wayne County schools failed to meet, five were for subgroups that included students with disabilities. The other three areas included black students from across the school system and students on free and reduced lunches.

Ken Derksen, public relations director for the school system, said the number of students identified as exceptional children has drastically risen since 1991-92, when there were 1,767, to 2,995 last year. There has also been dramatic growth in the number of low- wealth students, from 47 percent eight years ago to 58 percent at present.

In the state's letter, released from the state's office of curriculum and school reform services, Wayne County Public Schools is entering the corrective action phase of district improvement.

"First, we will continue to identify steps to improve student achievement by revising our school district's Title I District Improvement plan. This plan describes what the school district will do to help low-achieving children meet challenging academic achievement standards," wrote Elsie Leak, associate superintendent.

Secondly, in revising its Title I plan, the school system is required to focus on the professional development needs of its instructional staff. This is done by directly addressing the academic achievement problems that caused the school district to be identified for improvement.

The school system is expected to work with the state to improve student performance and will receive guided assistance from the state. In recent weeks, an assistance team was assigned to come to Wayne County to work with officials on what is being done currently and to implement strategies in the individual schools.To be removed from the district improvement status, the school system must meet all of its target goals in reading/math in grades three through five, grades six through eight or high school for two consecutive years, starting with the 2006-07 school year.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said he is confident in the efforts of the teachers and staff who work with the 19,400 students served in the public schools, noting that the latest challenge is not unique to Wayne County.

"Like many school systems around the nation, one of our biggest hurdles in No Child Left Behind is reaching those student subgroups that are most academically challenged in the classroom," he said.

Taylor said local officials are cooperating with the state to integrate new strategies to improve performance for "exceptional children," as well as those struggling academically and those who do not speak English.

Parents are encouraged to participate in the revision process by submitting written comments by Jan. 31 to the school system's Title I office.