08/22/07 — Preliminary school progress reports out

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Preliminary school progress reports out

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 22, 2007 1:45 PM

Only five of the 32 Wayne County Public Schools made adequate yearly progress for 2006-07 and while the report is considered preliminary, it's sending officials scrambling to make provisions before the start of school.

The state's Department of Public Instruction released the initial test results, but the official target date is Sept. 7, when the state board will approve and release findings.

The outcome is not surprising, in light of the measure -- the federal No Child Left Behind -- said Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability and student support services.

"Federal law says if they don't make AYP a certain number of years, they have to give school of choice," McFadden said, explaining that in such cases parents are given the option of transferring their child to a school that did make AYP. Even those plans are not set in stone, he noted.

"We sent letters home to parents that we may have to recall because we still have issues with some of the data," he said. "Some schools may still be on an unresolved list."

Thirteen schools were offered school choice, McFadden said. The main criteria is that it has to be a Title I school, which none of the high schools and all of the elementary schools except for Northwest Elementary are.

"There are a number of different issues with the data that are unresolved with the state," McFadden added. "It could easily affect the status of these 13 schools."

Under No Child Left Behind, the proficiency standards for AYP rise incrementally every three years. AYP is one assessment used to gauge academic progress at schools, classified into categories and subgroups. A single subgroup can result in the school not making AYP.

Schools that made AYP this year included Carver Heights, Meadow Lane and School Street elementary schools, and Charles B. Aycock and Eastern Wayne high schools.

Only one, Belfast Academy, an alternate school, had unconfirmed status for the past school year.

A charter school, Dillard Academy, located on Elm Street, also made AYP, accomplishing both of its target goals.

Several county schools narrowly missed the mark, which is especially frustrating, McFadden said.

"You look at the ones that missed by one goal," he said, citing schools like Rosewood High School, which had 13 target goals and met 12.

Fremont Elementary also met 12 out of its 13 target goals and Tommy's Road Elementary met 16 out of 17 target goals. Schools like Mount Olive Middle and Norwayne Middle fell short by two goals, Mount Olive reaching 23 of 25 and Norwayne getting 21 of its 23.

No Child Left Behind is a stringent marker, McFadden said. If a school misses AYP for two years in a row, the option to transfer students must be offered. From the 13 schools that currently applies to, he said 265 students have expressed an interest in changing schools.

"They get two choices -- we get to place them in one of those two schools based on space availability," McFadden said.

Because the numbers are still considered unofficial, all that is subject to change, he said.

"We'll have a good idea probably the end of next week. We'll know just before the state board meeting," he said.

Unfortunately, as time passes, the bar is just going to get harder to reach, McFadden said. Every three years, the goals become increasingly more challenging.

"The ultimate goal for No Child Left Behind, by the school year 2013-14, is that 100 percent will be at or above grade level. Between now and then the goal goes up every third year," he explained.

"This past year, 2005-06 and 2006-07, the goal were the same. This year the goals are going up."

Under such a plan, schools are almost being set up to fail, McFadden predicts.

"For a school to get 100 percent, it's going to be very rare for every single student to get at or above grade level. They'll be few and far between," he said.

In the meantime, McFadden holds out hope that the national marker will not be seen as the only representative measure in education.

The AYPs, he said, "don't answer the question, 'Is the school doing a good job?'

"If you want to see what kind of job the schools are doing, look at the ABC data (the state's test scoring system) -- it's the same test, the same students. It's just how you treat the data. They come up with very different results."