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Grayson schools miss AYP benchmark

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — For the second consecutive year, Grayson County Schools missed federal adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmarks — but the system did improve on accreditation.

Benchmark pass rates are set by the No Child Left Behind Act for standardized tests in math and English.

“The benchmark goes up every year,” said Grayson Director of Instruction and Assessment Stephen Cornett. “As we go up the scale, [making AYP] gets tougher every year until 2014 when it reaches 100 percent.”

The required percentage of students passing in order to make AYP stands at 77 percent this year in English and 75 percent in math.

Despite having five schools increase test scores in English and eight in math, the division still came up short on the final numbers.

“We are doing our best,” said Cornett. “And will continue to do so until we reach that 100 percent.”

Three of the county's nine schools did not meet AYP — Fries Middle, Independence Elementary and Independence Middle — the same three that missed last year.

When looking at the actual numbers, it can be deceiving as to why the county did not make AYP with division-wide pass rates of 78.9 percent in English and 76.22 percent in math.

“We made AYP as far as actual progress,” said Cornett. “It's the individual subgroups that fell below the standards.”

According to information on the Virginia Department of Education's Web site, the division failed to meet three of the 29 required benchmarks to obtain AYP.

Those three areas included pass rates for students identified as disadvantaged on English tests and students with disabilities on both English and math tests.

Independence Elementary also met the overall pass rate with 84.5 percent in English and 81.11 percent in math — but did not make AYP.

Cornett was optimistic about the improvements and noted that, while the overall AYP was not met, all subgroups had made extensive improvements from last year.

“There was vast improvement throughout all subgroups,” he said. “Every one of them has come up since last year.”

Math was a subject the county struggled with last year with only 69.72 percent of students passing.

That number grew to 76.22 percent this year, with eight schools improving their scores.

Overall, five schools increased English scores — Baywood Elementary, Bridle Creek, Fries Middle, Independence Elementary and Mount Roger Combined.

On a more positive note, Grayson County Schools' now has eight of its nine schools fully accredited for the 2008-09 school year — the division's best status to date.

“We are very proud of that mark. We have made gigantic strides,” Cornett said. “We had three schools [IMS, Mount Rogers Combined School and Providence] warned during the last four years. All three were able to come out and be fully accredited this year.”

The only school yet to be accredited is Fries Middle. The school was warned this year in both English and math.

FMS met the required benchmark in history, science and grades 3-5 English, but failed to make the required pass rate in math and higher level English.

The school nearly met the 75 percent English benchmark with a pass rate of 71 percent. On the math side, however, the school had only 44 percent of students pass — falling far short of the 77 percent goal.

“We continue to make strides and have empowered our principals to be the educational leaders of our schools,” said Cornett.

Grayson Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas agreed. “It has been a collaborative effort between the entire division to bring these scores up.”

Grayson School Board Member Shannon Holdaway thanked Cornett and the staff for working hard. “Congratulations to everybody... especially the students, we've made good progress. Now we just have one more [school] to go... hold the line and continue to go up.”