Two schools that didn’t make the adequate yearly progress requirements say those numbers don’t tell the whole story of the school.
Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff reviewed for Effingham County school board members what the state’s requirements for AYP are under federal legislation.
Arnsdorff said the first requirement is that every child in grades three through eight and 11 participate in the state assessment used to determine AYP. The state allows for 95 percent participation rate. The subject areas tested are reading, English/language arts and math.
“For AYP purposes, only grades three, four and five are looked at in elementary school,” he said. “The entire grade span in middle school is covered, six through eight. Of course, only first-time test takers in grade 11 apply in high school.”
The second component is the annual measurable objective, or AMO. That means, Arnsdorff explained, that each school as a whole and each student subgroup must meet the state prescribed benchmark or number of students who must pass the test. It is established by the state for the Criterion Referenced Competency Test and the high school graduation test.
He said that for the elementary schools, the subgroup is typically determined if there are 40 or more students in a category, but in the larger middle and high schools, it will typically be 10 percent of the student population.
“The names of the subgroups may be not in the language that we use everyday,” Arnsdorff said. “I know when these reports first came out, there was some controversy about the use of the term ‘black’ in describing one of the subgroups. Those are not choices that we make. I use those terms to describe what the state reports, and those were all predetermined at the state level.”
Arnsdorff told the members that each school must also meet a second indicator. For elementary and middle schools, the second indicator is attendance, and the state mandates the second indicator for high schools is graduation rate.
“What that means is that no more than 15 percent of the students can be absent more than 15 days if they’re enrolled for a full academic year,” he said.
To meet the second indicator for graduation rate, 75 percent or more of the students must graduate on time, there must be an increase of 10 percent from the previous year or the school must meet three-year multi averaging. The AMOs schools are held to are an a sliding scale and the marks schools must hit bump up every few years.
“By the year 2014, these will all be at 100 percent — every student, every subgroup must be at 100 percent meet or exceeds on these tests,” Arnsdorff said.
The benchmark for grades three to five and six to eight for reading and English/language arts was to have 73.3 percent of the students meeting or exceeding standards. For math, in the same grade levels, the goal was to have 59.5 percent of the students meet or exceed standards.
The AMOs for the high school graduation test were 87.7 percent in English and 74.9 percent in math.
Of Effingham County’s public schools, Effingham County Middle School and South Effingham High School did not meet AYP, and the system also did not meet AYP.
Effingham County Middle School met 10 of its 11 AYP categories. ECMS did not meet the standard for the subgroup of students with disabilities on its CRCT reading and English/language arts scores.
“In that subgroup, 50.6 percent of the students met or exceeded — that was 43.5 students of the total of 86 students with disabilities in that subgroup for the school,” Arnsdorff said. “The AMO for that test is 73.3, so you see a number of the students did meet; however, it did not quite get us to the bar that was established as the annual measurable objective, and so that school will be focusing on working with those students with disabilities in the area of reading over the next year.”
Superintendent Randy Shearouse said the system has continued to move students out of special education, and there are now fewer students in that subgroup.
“It’s a good thing that we’re moving them out — it’s a great thing. That’s what we want to do, but that group is sometimes more challenging,” he said.
Arnsdorff said he expects Congress to examine the requirements for students with disabilities when it brings up the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind legislation. The act is waiting for reauthorization, but it has been pushed back because of other priorities currently being handled by legislators.
“We believe one of the areas that will be addressed is the testing issue of students with disabilities,” he said. “You would expect that students may not progress at the same rate as their peers on a grade level. However, the expectation is they will learn, they will improve, they will make progress, but maybe not at the same rate.
“So, even parents a lot of times challenge us about the angst and anxiety that comes with these tests when students have been identified with a disability. But they’re taking the same exact test that all their grade level peers are taking.”
Arnsdorff said the system did a pilot for a test for students with disabilities for the state that is an alternative version of the CRCT. That alternate test may better examine the progress of students with disabilities.
“We are looking forward to that, and certainly we’ll be engaging in discussions as Congress takes up the reauthorization,” he said. “I think this is going to be one of the big areas that they touch on.”
ECMS Principal Rob Porterfield said there will be a push at the school for standard quality work by all students.
“It’s probably not going to happen immediately,” he said. “It will happen through the course of the year. But students who do not do standard quality work, (that) work’s going to be given back to them with feedback about how to make it standard quality work and the expectation will be that all students do standard quality work. That will be the expectation for our school.”
He said he is proud of the improvement students made at the school last year.
“I would first of all like to congratulate our students and our teachers on the job that they did last year,” Porterfield said. “We made marked improvement in a lot of areas. We were very proud of all of our subgroups that made AYP on the scale score, which is the first time they took the test. All subgroups except our students with disabilities met AYP on the first testing. That in and of itself is a wonderful improvement, and is marked improvement from the year before. Also our students with disabilities showed marked improvement we just didn’t quite make AYP, but they did improve.”
South Effingham High School met AYP in six of its seven categories. The only area that did not meet AYP standards was in the English/language arts portion of the high school graduation test for the economically disadvantaged subgroup.
“They met in all the other subgroups that they have in that school, and for all students,” Arnsdorff said. “However, 78.6 percent of the students met or exceeded in this subgroup — that was 55 students out of the 70 in the subgroup. The AMO was 87.7 percent, so they fell a little short in meeting that. But then again, 55 students of those 70 did meet or exceed, so they have a population that they’re going to look a little closer at over the next year.”
SEHS also did not meet AYP for the same subgroup in math. The goal was 74.9 percent of the subgroup students to meet or exceed standards and SEHS had 55.7 percent — 39 students of 70 in the subgroup — meet or exceed the standards.
SEHS Principal Dr. Mark Winters said the AYP results are based on the high school graduation test, but he hates to see people judge a school only by AYP results.
“There are a lot of things that any school can be proud of, even if they didn’t make AYP,” he said.
Winters said he will sit down with his instructional supervisor and find out what help can be given to the students going into 11th grade who are economically disadvantaged in order to improve next year.
“You have to be very careful in doing that,” he said. “Some schools across the country are actually removing elective classes from those students who are gauged at-risk. We will look at CRCT scores, we’ll look at end of course test scores and track some of these and see who is on the track to not be successful on the high school graduation test.”
He said the tricky part is to not make the students believe as if they are having things taken from them in order to help them become successful on the high school graduation test.
“(Travis) Nesmith did a great job this last year in helping at-risk students graduate,” Winters said. “We didn’t meet AYP, but we had the highest graduation rate that we’ve ever had.”
He said every subgroup increased the percentage of students graduating on time.
“We need to work with the 11th graders so this year we’re successful, and they’re successful, but at the same time targeting 10th graders and especially those ninth graders,” Winters said. “If we can get those ninth graders who are at risk of not passing or meeting standards, then it will make the job easier as they move to 10th and 11th grade.”
He said if they only worked with 11th graders every year, eventually it would not work. That could leave a group too large to help all of the students in one year or a group that is too far behind if they have not been helped throughout their high school careers.
“As I was looking at the summary of the data, we tested 100 percent of students in subgroups, so all of our economically disadvantaged students were tested,” Winters said. “We could look at it two ways — you test all of them, so even the kids who are not where they need to be are going to count against you, but if you don’t have these scores, you can’t really help the kids do better.
“We are going to work so hard to meet (AYP). If we don’t, we will be the most exhausted faculty and staff anywhere in Georgia,” Winters said. “The silver lining about a group not making AYP is saying what does this tell us about us.”
Winters said he was proud when he looked at the portion that exceeded standards.
“When we look at all students in math, the most difficult section we had 68.6, almost 69 percent, of our students exceeding. That’s quite a feat,” he said. “I was extremely pleased with that.”
For English, 57 percent of students exceeded standards.
“I’m very proud of that,” Winters said. “I’m proud that most of our students aren’t just meeting the basics, they’re exceeding the basics.”
Arnsdorff said the system is judged on the total of all students in the district. On the CRCT, 99.8 percent — just over 5,000 — of the students who were supposed to be tested in math were tested. For English/language arts, the number was 99.9 percent, or 5,009 students.
On the high school graduation test in math, 99.2 percent of the students who were eligible were tested and in English/language arts, the figure was 99.4 percent.
In the academic performance area on the CRCT, 86.5 percent of our students met or exceeded standards in math and all subgroups met or exceeded standards, according to Arnsdorff. For the reading/language arts portion, 92.4 percent of students met or exceeded. Students with disabilities met at the confidence interval.
The state also will have three other measurements for subgroups or the system if a group does not meet the AMO.
“The confidence interval is the first look, and it’s basically a statistical calculation,” Arnsdorff said. “They run it to see how accurate is it that this score is true and valid. The next level they would go to would be multi-year averaging, where you look at the average of over three years. The last area is safe harbor and that is you would have to show a 10 percent increase over the last administration.”
On the math portion of the high school graduation test, 81.2 percent of students met or exceeded standards, but the black subgroup met at the safe harbor level. Arnsdorff said when that happens, in order to meet AYP, the subgroup must meet the second indicator.
The economically disadvantaged subgroup had 64.8 percent meeting or exceeding and the AMO there was 74.9 percent.
On the English/language arts portion of the high school graduation test, 90.3 percent met or exceeded proficiency, while the black subgroup met the confidence interval. The AMO for the economically disadvantaged subgroup was 87.7 percent but that subgroup had an 83.4 percent level of meets or exceeds.
The system made the secondary indicator for elementary and middle schools, with only 2.8 percent of students missing 15 days or more in the school year.
At the high school level, the two high schools awarded 634 regular diplomas, for a graduation rate of 79.3 percent.
“Due to the safe harbor calculation, however, we had to go back and look at that black subgroup of students and see did they make AYP, and they did not,” Arnsdorff said.
The graduation rate for that subgroup fell to 66.1 percent, so the system did not meet AYP for that criteria.
“Basically, we have three areas at the system level, and again this is all rising from what’s going on in each of the schools,” Arnsdorff said. “On the high school graduation test, both in math and English/language arts, the economically disadvantaged students did not meet, and the black subgroup did not meet for graduation rate.”