Most schools meet AYP targets

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School divisions as a whole in Galax, Carroll and Grayson did not meet federal progress benchmarks — but neither did 117 others in Virginia.

By Staff Reports

It was a tough year for Virginia schools, as the state as a whole failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress targets for the 2009-10 school year, according to data released Aug. 12 by the Virginia Department of Education.
No local school divisions met the criteria, either, though the majority of individual schools did in the City of Galax and Carroll and Grayson counties.

The state's performance dropped from 71 percent passing last year to 60 percent passing this year. Only 12 of Virginia's 132 school divisions made AYP this year, compared with 60 last year.
Statewide, six of every 10 schools met or exceeded the benchmarks.
For a school to make AYP, 81 percent of students and demographic subgroups must have demonstrated proficiency in reading and 79 percent in math.
Subgroups include white, black, Hispanic, limited English proficient, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged.
AYP is a component of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

Grayson County
More than half of Grayson County's public schools met AYP targets.
For the first time this year, at least 80 percent of students must graduate with an advanced or standard diploma within four years for a high school or school division to make AYP.
“We had 67 percent of our schools to exceed or meet all No Child Left Behind  objectives and adequate yearly progress,” said Grayson Schools' Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas. “This is better than the state percentage of only 60 percent of schools across the Commonwealth that met the AYP benchmarks.”
While the division did not make AYP, she noted Grayson is in a vast majority in Virginia. “We believe that the federal guidelines are unrealistic and we are advocating for changes.”
Four of seven Grayson schools made AYP:  Baywood, Fairview, Fries and Providence. Three Grayson schools did not make AYP: Independence Elementary, Independence Middle and Grayson County High School.
Grayson Highlands wasn't “graded” because it's a new school.
“Our school division continues to make steady strides in increasing student achievement according to our state accountability system,” Thomas said. “Our preliminary SOL results shows that all of our schools are fully accredited this year, which will be the first time in the history of our system,” Thomas said.
The school system presented two Superintendent's awards to two schools during convocation. Fairview Elementary School received the Superintendent's Award for the "Highest Student Achievement" and Fries Middle School received the Superintendent's Award for the "Highest Increase in Achievement."
“We are very proud of the gains in student learning and successes that are occurring at all of our schools in Grayson County,” Thomas added.
No Child Left Behind was designed with moving AYP targets that are set to increase each year with the intent of reaching 100 percent by 2014. Virginia education officials received permission from the U.S. Department of Education to use last year's benchmarks again this year.

Carroll County
Three schools in Carroll County and the division as a whole did not meet the benchmarks to obtain AYP for the 2009-2010 school year, according to information from the Virginia Department of Education.
Carroll educators have challenged the results that say Woodlawn didn't make AYP.
To qualify, each school and the division must achieve scores in a breakdown of 29 subcategories in standardized testing. These are from results that reflect ethnicity, economic status, limited English skills and students with disabilities.
The schools that did not make it included Gladeville Elementary, Woodlawn and Carroll County Intermediate.
Those schools that reached all the benchmarks included Fancy Gap, Gladesboro, Hillsville, Laurel, Oakland, St. Paul and Carroll County High.
Of the schools that did not make AYP, they all missed the mark by just one of the 29 benchmarks.
Carroll Intermediate failed in the math category under the “students with disabilities,” subgroup, the information from the state shows.
Gladeville did not make it because of the scores under the “economically disadvantaged for English” subgroup.
And Woodlawn got denied AYP because — even though it improved math scores in the economically disadvantaged subgroup — the school did not meet another academic indicator, according to the state.
The results are a little more complicated on the division level.
The division did not show good enough testing results in four categories.
In English performance, the limited English proficient students did not reach the desired results. Students with disabilities showed improvement, but still did not make the benchmark.
In math, both Hispanic and limited English proficiency subgroups missed AYP.
Carroll County Public Schools has appealed the results from Woodlawn, said Beverly Parker, Carroll's director of school improvement. Educators believe this is an error.
The reason is the scoring that shows Woodlawn did not make AYP because of attendance in one subgroup, she explained. The school as a whole, though, did meet the attendance requirements.
If the appeal is granted, that means Carroll would have eight out of 10 schools that met and exceeded all the No Child Left Behind benchmarks, Parker noted.
The 80 percent passing rate is significant, because the students had to get higher scores on English and math tests this year, she said. More students have shown a better grasp of the material by scoring in the "advanced" range on the tests.
"We have schools now, if they make less than 90 percent passing, they are disappointed," she said.
And all 10 schools should meet the state's accreditation standards, Parker added. That makes it another "10 for 10" year.
The higher test scores are all the more impressive, considering that Carroll students missed 20 days of school because of inclement weather last year, she said. One would expect the disruption from snow days to have impacted student instruction and retention.
"I am proud that our students compete admirably against any school division in Virginia," Parker said.

City of Galax
Last year, all three Galax schools and the division as a whole met adequate yearly progress standards. This year, however, Galax Middle School — and the division —  did not.
Each subgroup must meet the passing rate and be made up of at least 50 individuals in order to count. Some students fell into several subgroups.
Galax Superintendent Bill Sturgill said the division missed AYP benchmarks in four categories: English performance in students with disabilities, English performance in black students, Math performance in students with disabilities and math performance in black students.
Galax Middle School missed AYP benchmarks for English performance in the Hispanic subgroup, English performance with limited English proficiency, math performance with the economically disadvantaged and math performance with Hispanics.
Sturgill said school officials set the expectation to meet AYP annually and are disappointed that it didn't happen this year.
“We will spend time reviewing this data and the pass rates and building plans and going forward to address these subgroups in those areas...,” said Sturgill. “The SOLs are a good assessment of who we are and what we do, and we use them to design programs, for remediation and planning teaching assignments. We will use this to drive the system as we go forward this year.”
Prior to receiving AYP results, Sturgill noted some new lesson plans that began this year to improve SOL scores and education.
Galax Elementary School Principal Brian Stuart has designed a new reading program, in which first and fourth grade students visit with a reading teacher every day, and students are broken up into groups based on their reading levels. A reading specialist has also been hired at the elementary school.
In addition, a math specialist has been hired at Galax Middle School, and some GMS teachers, through a grant, took classes through Emory & Henry College to develop new teaching strategies. They will continue math Web seminars throughout the year.
"As the pass rates continue to climb, we will work hard to achieve those SOL standards," said Sturgill. “We have a responsibility to make those benchmarks and have to expect that we will. Otherwise, we are not serving out students as we should. We missed AYP by a little this year and expect to make it again next year."
Even though SOLs set the standards for learning basic curriculum, Galax schools plan to go above and beyond that, said Sturgill, noting that this year, an SAT prep class began at Galax High School.
“If a teacher focuses on just what is on the SOLs, they will leave out something,” said Sturgill. “We need to cover all things, not just what is on SOLs. We should give more than the minimum standard.”
Sturgill said school officials are still reviewing scores to make sure the state's review of the exams is correct.

Gazette writers Christopher Brooke, Tina E. Vaughn and April Wright contributed to this article. Some information was provided by Landmark News Service.