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INDEPENDENCE — Grayson County leaders say their school system was “well above the state average” in terms of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks, despite the school division missing the increasingly difficult standards for the third straight year.
Director of Instruction and Assessment Stephen Cornett updated the Grayson County School Board on the county’s AYP numbers Monday night, during its regular monthly meeting.
Cornett explained that the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) had gone up 5 percentage points for reading and 6 percentage points for math since last year.
To qualify and make AYP, a school had to have a pass rate of 86 percent for reading and 85 percent for math.
“Only 697 out of 1,839 Virginia schools made AYP,” Cornett said, noting that the overall statewide pass rate was only 38 percent — down from nearly 61 percent last year.
While Cornett said administrators certainly aren’t satisfied that their division did not make AYP, it was still an accomplishment that three out of the county’s seven schools did make AYP — a pass rate of 42.86 percent.
“We are well above the state average,” Cornett told the board, adding that the three schools that made AYP included Baywood Elementary, Fairview Elementary and Grayson County High School.
In Virginia, only 47 percent of elementary schools made AYP, while only 9 percent of middle schools and only 35 percent of high schools met the federal benchmarks.
Based on last year’s numbers (81 percent reading and 79 percent math), Cornett said five of the county’s schools would have made AYP, with the other two being Fries School and Independence Elementary.
Cornett called that number “pretty impressive,” but added that those benchmarks will increase again next year and the subsequent years until the bar is set at 100 percent in the 2013-14 school year.
“We will try our best to do as well as we possibly can,” Cornett said of obtaining the eventual 100 percent pass rate requirement, which has been a topic of debate recently among educators who argue that it is not an obtainable goal. “I am pleased with these results.”
Cornett said he appreciated the hard work of all the teachers, students, parents, principals and school administrators who have worked tirelessly to continue the upward trend of pass rates in the county.
One reason for the increase at the high school — which saw an overall increase of 0.84 percent in pass rates — is that students are being better prepared in the lower level grades and the county is finally seeing the fruits of that labor, Cornett explained.
Overall, Baywood Elementary received the Superintendent’s Award for having the highest actual pass rate in the county. Baywood had an overall pass rate of 92.2 percent — a 4.12 percent increase over last year’s numbers.
Independence Middle School won the Superintendent’s Award for having the largest gain, at 4.38 percent.
Four of the county’s seven schools saw increases in pass rates overall (Baywood, GCHS, Independence Elementary and Independence Middle) while two schools (Fairview and Fries) saw moderate decreases.
Grayson Highlands School did not have numbers from the previous year, as last year was the school’s first year of operation.
Not only did Grayson rise to the top of the class in terms of a state-wide average, but the county’s percentage of schools making AYP also topped all the surrounding localities.
As a division, Grayson’s 42.86 percentage of schools making AYP was higher than Wythe County, Floyd County, Washington County, Bristol, Smyth County, Carroll County, Bland County, Radford, Giles County and Galax.
Cornett added that some of these schools may have larger subgroups that did not meet pass rate standards, which could have affected their AYP. Those subgroups may not exist or aren’t as dominant within the Grayson school system.
“We’re very proud of our students’ performance, our teachers and their high quality instruction they provided and our leadership at our home office and building levels to ensure high quality instruction is taking place,” said Grayson Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas. “We are going to strive to make sure they do even better and are always going to work towards 100 percent [pass rates] for all of our students.”
Board Vice Chairman Shannon Holdaway felt the same, and on behalf of the board congratulated all of the county’s schools “for an excellent job.”
Grayson’s four schools that did not make it all came close. Of the 29 AYP elements required for federally-mandated success, Independence Elementary students passed 27; Independence Middle, 28; Fries School, 25; and Grayson Highlands, 23.
State leaders and local educators are calling for the No Child Left Behind to be reformed, as an increasingly high amount of schools failed to meet the benchmarks set for the 2010-11 school year.
Only four school divisions out of the 132 in Virginia passed the benchmarks as a whole for the 2010-11 school year.
Local educators have been upfront in their desire to see changes to the federal education initiative.
No less than state public schools Superintendent Patricia Wright recently reacted that “the 10-year-old accountability system established under No Child Left Behind has outlived its usefulness and should be overhauled,” after the latest rounds of scores came out.
She wants the state Board of Education to ask the federal government for a waiver from the “increasingly unrealistic requirements,” according to a news release.
“Accountability is not advanced by arbitrary rules and benchmarks that misidentify schools,” Wright said. “During the coming weeks, I will begin a discussion with the state board on creating a new model for measuring yearly progress that maintains high expectations for student achievement, recognizes growth... and accurately identifies schools most in need of improvement.”